N.B. Coalition for Seniors rep has ‘mixed feelings’ about new nursing home announcement

In a news release on Thursday, the province said its Social Development Department is calling for proposals for a 60-bed nursing home in the Acadian Peninsula, in northeast New Brunswick.

“This government is committed to providing the right kind of care at the right time,” said Social Development Minister Bruce Fitch in the release.

“The development of this project is a priority to address the need for nursing home beds in the area.”

Read more: New Brunswick’s auditor general warns of crisis in nursing home sector

New Brunswick’s auditor general warned Wednesday of a crisis in the nursing home sector if the government doesn’t address the shortage of spaces.

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Kim Adair-MacPherson said the number of seniors in the province is expected to double by 2036 and there are currently almost 800 seniors waiting for a nursing home placement.

The AG report also found that millions of dollars are spent on additional costs related to New Brunswickers waiting for nursing home beds.

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Cecile Cassista, director of the New Brunswick Coalition for Seniors, says the AG report could have been a factor in rolling out Thursday’s announcement.

But Cassista isn’t confident that a new nursing home is the only necessary step towards a solution. She says she is concerned that the province is proposing a new nursing home without addressing staffing issues.

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“We have staffing problems today, and we are asking the government to not have the staff currently working in these facilities working in multiple locations,” Cassista said.

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“Unless they put more resources in it, they’re going to continue to have a crisis.”

Global News has reached out to the Social Development Department but has not received a response by the time of publication.

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In Thursday’s release, Fitch said the new nursing home is a part of Phase 2 of the province’s five-year Nursing Home Plan that began in 2018.

The release said the plan “has the objective to address two primary issues: aging infrastructure and the need for additional beds.” The plan includes the implementation of 600 “Level 3” nursing homes around the province.

“The Nursing Home Plan was developed following an in-depth assessment of a demographic projection review, current nursing home facility condition assessments, and a review of design standards for new nursing homes,” said Fitch in the release.

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The province said there are currently 70 licensed nursing homes with a total of 4,925 beds.

According to the release, construction of the new nursing home in the Acadian Peninsula could begin this fall and open doors in 2023.

Read more: New Brunswick long-term care homes short staffed during COVID-19

In terms of Thursday’s announcement, Cassista said 60 beds is big enough for a nursing home — “any bigger than that… the seniors are really disconnected.”

She said smaller homes are always preferable.

“We can’t be warehousing our seniors, and that’s what governments of today seem to do, and that’s really not acceptable.”

While the need for beds is a reality in New Brunswick, Cassista said she hopes to see the province invest more into letting seniors age in their own homes.

“I always get concerned when they start building nursing homes and they don’t address the home-care piece.”

Cassista said seniors want to stay at home, but more funding for home-care is needed.

While she said she has mixed feelings about the call for proposals for a new nursing home, she hopes more action is taken in a way that benefits seniors.

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“I’d really like to see the government deal with the issues of the auditor general’s recommendations. She’s concerned, and we’re concerned.”

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