Column: Premier Houston talks long-term care challenges

Premier Tim Houston. (Communications N.S photo)

The following column is a new monthly piece that is being submitted by Premier Tim Houston to community news outlets across the province.

Tackling Long-Term Care Challenges

For too long, too many Nova Scotians have been waiting to get into long-term care. This is incredibly stressful on those who need it and their loved ones. It also places strain across the entire healthcare system as Nova Scotians who need long-term care remain in hospital beds.

The continuing care sector has been underfunded for years and my government is focused on changing that. 

We’re making progress. One of the first things we did was establish the first dedicated provincial department in Canada solely focused on the needs of seniors as they move through the later stages of their lives.

Demand for nursing homes is expected to grow, so we’re adding 1,200 new long-term care spaces to the system and renovating 2,300 more spaces by 2027. 

Our healthcare workers are the heart of the system. This time last year, 500 long-term care beds were closed because of staffing pressures. We worked closely with our partners in the sector to get them the support they needed to open those beds. 

Through temporary efforts like travel staff and other strategic investments, we’ve opened every bed that was closed due to staffing. That’s right — at the time of writing that this article was submitted, no beds were closed for this reason.

Travel staff are a necessary, but temporary, way to provide care. While we work to recruit, we need to make sure there is enough staff in place to keep beds open, protect patient safety and support our nurses in the system. 

But our focus remains on retaining the workforce continuing care assistants and nurses working in the province. We’re doing exactly that. We’ve offered free tuition and books for CCA students and a long-needed pay increase for working CCAs. 

Recently we hit a milestone – the 1,000th free tuition CCA bursary was awarded. We’re well on track to hit our target of 2,000 students in the first two years of this program. We’ve also invested in recruitment within Canada and overseas, like our recent successful trip to Kenya.  

I’ve made it clear since taking office that we will explore every opportunity to improve healthcare for Nova Scotians. I know more work needs to be done, but we are committed to doing whatever it takes to provide you and your loved ones with the care you need, when and where you need it.

Premier Tim Houston