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Letter: In Nova Scotia long term care is underpaid, undervalued, understaffed and underfunded

I am the president of CUPE Nova Scotia and I represent 4000 workers in 48 nursing homes across the province. I am also an LPN with 20 years experience working in long term care. I speak with the voice of a caregiver and an activist.

I am frustrated that government does not hear our voices. Recruitment and retention continue to get worse in long term care. Would you be attracted to a profession where you are underpaid, undervalued, understaffed and underfunded?

Working short leads to mandated overtime and an increased injury rate. Going to work every day not being able to meet the residents needs in a way that is comforting to the resident and the caregiver… How long can people work in this environment and not experience burn out?

The McNeil government, in their limited wisdom, has made a few moves with long term care. They cut funding to such a degree that in the next budget they had to put some back for the grocery budget and recreation for our seniors. Meanwhile they ended the bursary program that assisted the predominantly female population to acquire their education.

There have been six years with no economic increase for thousands of workers. Bill 148 was passed, which has 0% in two of the years. Once the math is done it is a wage rollback and nowhere near the cost of living. For several years now, the starting rate of for CCAs remains $16.38. There has been no increase in the resident to staff ratio in 15 years and everyone seems to agree there is an increase in the acuity of care. Also, the McNeil government is committed to no new beds.

In Canada, Nova Scotia has the largest percentage of its population that is over 65 and we are not getting younger. When we reached out to the province and asked to work with them on a recruitment and retention plan… .silence. We have waited seven months now and still no answer.

Minister Delorey responded to the report on long term care released last week by saying the government would pursue and act on the 22 recommendations. What that means is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, long term care will continue to burn at the expense of those we care for and those who care for them.

Nan McFadgen
CUPE Nova Scotia President


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  1. My grandmother just recently was put in a nursing home, the place is extremely outdated and its un conceivable that at 102 she had to leave her gorgeous home to be in a shared cramped up little place and feels like it doesn’t belong to her because she has no space to make it like home.Mr premier and your honourable prime minister Trudeau I urge you to spend an entire day in every nursing home with imaging your dear loved one living out their end days in a place that you have decided is acceptable

    1. Nicely put Stephanie…. but they don’t have to imagine their loved ones in a small cramped space, called a home that is under staffed where their care is less then exceptable because lm sure they would get nothing less then the best care for their loved ones !!!!!!

    2. They don’t give a crap. They will have private care and pay there caregivers well. They need to go to units in nursing homes that are locked down units because of aggression and wandering and at the right time of day when things escalate and you are working short trying to help people to the washroom or get them changed while there is a fight breaking out. Tell me how can you solve that problem. I have lots more examples. It all boils down to THE GOVERNMENT JUST DONT CARE. Thank god I do care because I am one of those workers along with many others and I also have a mother in long term care. You

  2. My Mom spent 2 years in a nursing home in a room that was designed for 1 person but had 2 in it ..she or us her family had no privacy when we would visit ,and at the end of her life it was heart wrenching not to have private it time with her…When she needed to see a Doctor the majority of the time perscriptions would be ordered without the doctor actual going in to see her and if she was actually lucky enough to see the Dr he would come in with hand sanitizers and not even touch her ..myself or my siblings spent hours everyday at the home with our Mom and saw first hand how over worked and understaffed the home was with the exception of management which there seemed to be an abundance except when there was a problem .They seemed to care much more about decorating the common areas than the residents.

  3. Great idea!! Should be mandatory that they do!!!!
    I have worked in long Term Care for 39 yrs. I totally agree with you

  4. I agree with all of the above posts. The Long Term Care Homes are desperate for more workers not management. I spend a part of every day at one of these facilities to visit family. All one had to do is look in the eyes of the CCA’s to see how tired they are but you can also see how devoted they are.

    I hope all of these politicians are smart enough to realize this problem is not going away with the ageing population in NS. They too, one day may be placed in a Long Term Care Home and I hope I get to see how they feel when they pull the cord for a wash room visit and have to wait for a CCA to assist them.

    All these decision makers have to do is spend some time in a Long Term Care Facility and see how overworked these workers really are.

    Spend money on Long Term Care solutions rather than building new outdoor items like tracks for kids to use – we used the outdoors for all of that and spending all that money on the Ferry system that docks in Yarmouth and paying for Border Agents.

    Sooner than later,this topic has to b discussed and action taken!

    Just remember an old saying – “What goes around, comes around” – you refuse to address this subject so maybe only when you are in one of this facilities will you actually realize how these residents are being looked after.

  5. Are RNs doing any hands on nursing in these facilities ?? Are there any RNs in them? Are the CCAs mostly casual and mostly working under staffed?! Who is monitoring these facilities … no one ?? Heaven forbid they would be actually monitored for staffing numbers , quality etc etc !

  6. My daughter has worked in this field for 9 year and the horror stories she tells us break my heart. I cannot wait until she finishes her B.Ed. and gets the hell out of there. The people I feel sorry for are the clients. They see staff overworked and undervalued but cannot do anything. The management in this place is unbelievable. How can you be a dedicated employee and feel good about where you work if your boss of 9 years cannot call you by your first name (with your name tag on). She hasn’t had a raise, a performance review or any other contact with management in 9 years to know how she is doing. You have to care about the people who work for you. This is an extremely important job they are doing. They are caring for our elderly parents when we cannot. What price can you put on that. There are bigger problems here than wages and it’s time these nursing homes stopped looking at the bottom line and started caring about the people who are doing this most valuable service. Remember Management folks, “what goes around comes around, karma’s a bitch and she is coming for you”.

  7. As someone with three family members in long term care, Iet me say that the work CCA’s and nursing home staff do is greatly appreciated by the families.

    There is real skill involved in being able to manage vulnerable and frail people with compassion and care – and even some humour and light. Some of the residents have poor mental health on top of physical challenges. It is physically and emotionally taxing for the caregiver and patient.

    People doing this much needed, much appreciated work should get paid a proper wage.

  8. I am the spouse of a CCA worker and i can tell you first hand , the work that these people do is extraordinary, dealing with long hours , being understaffed being called on days off to come back because injuries are accruing at alarming rates, not only getting to know these men and women who they look after daily , but getting personal with them and yes at some point dealing with the Deaths of friends because in the short time these men and women care for YOUR “loved” ones they become their loved ones , how these men and women deal with life on all fronts i’ll never know, the death, sickness, family life, personal life, etc, it takes a very special kind of personal to do the tasks asked of these beautiful people and the disrespect they get from governments both PC and Liberal is embarrassing and humiliating at best, all they ask is to be treated fairly, nothing more or less, the people of NS need to send clear messages to their government, to recognize these people for the sacrifices they make everyday so that your loved ones when the time comes can leave as they came in to this world…cared for.

  9. As a CCA first hand what we deal with on a daily basis first of all is very stressful and we are overworked underpaid and very tired. I love my job as a CCA I feel these residents are getting ripped off the much needed care they deserve after working hard all their lives they deserve better. Wake up liberal government the majority of our population is seniors and you are not meeting the requirement of care they need. It’s sad really, karma is a bitch what comes around will come to bite you in the ass someday.

  10. I am a cca in Halifax and I cannot agree with you more. It is absolutely disgusting how they are going about the situation and how they lied to the public about how prepared the nursing homes are during covid 19. We don’t have enough of anything and that was well before this broke out. I wonder how people would feel if front line workers decided to strike, I’m sure they would pay attention very quickly. It also makes me angry that the media would rather attack us then help the problems. There has been more horrible reports written about this field then you can shake a stick at but god forbid they help and bring awareness. The media is just as guilty as the MacNeil government and its disgusting.

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