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Open letter: Nursing home staffing levels can’t be ignored!

OPEN LETTER

April 14, 2020

Premier Stephen McNeil, Email:  premier@novascotia.ca

Re: Addressing Staffing Levels in Long-Term Care

Dear Mr. Premier,

We are again writing as a group of family members (who are concerned about long-term care) to commend you on the important leadership which you are providing on the Covid-19 crisis.  We certainly appreciate all the hard work and efforts which everyone (especially, front-line workers) are making to address this crisis. 

At the same time, we are very concerned about your answer to a media question on Monday, April 13 about staffing levels in long-term care. We certainly agree that front-line workers in long-term care and throughout the health care system are making extraordinary efforts.  But we would respectfully suggest that ending the chronically low staffing levels in long-term care should be considered an urgent priority, and not a topic only to be considered later. This has been a key issue for us which we have been raising repeatedly since our organization was established in 2006.

Staffing levels are especially important considering the recent stringent provincial directive of April 6 and the federal interim guidelines of April 8 to nursing homes. One indicator of understaffing is that some front-line workers are apparently being permitted to return to work after being exposed to an infected person before the usual two-week period is over, which is unacceptable. 

If anything, more staffing resources are needed to properly fulfill these requirements, respond to an increasing incidence of Covid-19 among residents and staff, and still provide a high quality of care to all residents. 

With apparently half of deaths related to Covid-19 taking place in long-term care facilities nationally and even internationally, ensuring adequate staffing levels must be given greater priority. We urge you to remember Dr. Strang’s commitment last week of “…ensuring that each facility, regardless of size, has all the information and resources to protect our seniors in their care”.

We are certain that all the major stakeholders in long-term care (government, management, unions, and front-line workers themselves) would be willing to work closely together on an urgent basis to determine the appropriate levels of qualified staff needed in each facility. We again urge your government to immediately plan and implement a special funding initiative to increase the levels of qualified staff in all nursing homes and residential care facilities. 

It has been our experience that a ratio of one qualified caregiver to four residents is essential to providing a high quality of safe and appropriate care, and especially now, with the increased likelihood of the presence of Covid-19.  We need many more staff than ever before to prevent and address this terrible virus in nursing homes, and of course, across our public health care system.

We hope you will give serious consideration to our concerns and recommendations.  We are willing to assist you and your government in any way we can during this very difficult period.

Yours sincerely,

Gary MacLeod

Chair

The ACE (Advocates for the Care of the Elderly) Team

c. Hon Randy Delorey, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Carr, President and CEO, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Vicki Elliott-Lopez, Senior Executive Director, Continuing Care, Tim Houston, PC Leader, Barbara Adams, PC Long-Term Care Critic, Gary Burrill, NDP Leader, Danny Cavanagh, President, Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, Media Outlets

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