HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia government has appointed an expert panel to recommend ways to improve the province’s long-term care facilities.
The decision by Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey comes in the wake of a series of media reports that have raised questions about the quality of care in these facilities. Delorey issued a brief statement Wednesday saying the three-member panel will look into appropriate staffing and skill levels, and offer advice about the recruitment and retention of staff.
As well, their report will look into proper wound care, patient and worker safety, and the protection of vulnerable persons.
There are about 6,900 nursing home beds and 900 residential care beds in Nova Scotia that serve about 11,000 people each year.
The three-member panel includes: Janice Keefe, director of Mount Saint Vincent University’s Nova Scotia Centre on Aging; Dr. Greg Archibald, a family doctor and head of Dalhousie University’s Department of Family Medicine; and Cheryl Smith, a nurse practitioner and educator who focuses on dementia care.
The panel is expected to submit its recommendations by Nov. 30.
“Recent concerns have left us looking at what we can be doing differently and these experts will help guide us,” Delorey said in the statement.
In response to reports about the death of a 40-year-old woman with an infected bedsore, the province confirmed in June there were more than 150 nursing-home residents suffering from serious bedsores.
The wounds were designated Stage 3 and Stage 4, which are the most severe injuries. Another 400 less-severe cases were also noted.
At the time, NDP Leader Gary Burrill described the bedsore problem as a “full-blown emergency.”
And the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, Janet Hazelton, said the case was “heart wrenching and, quite frankly, unacceptable.” The union has called for staffing standards and penalties for homes that fail to comply.
Citing a 2001 U.S. study, the nurses union said that 4.1 hours of daily care is needed to prevent deterioration in a resident’s condition.
Nursing home operators have said they provide an average of three hours and 27 minutes of daily care, based on the current funding model.
Halifax police investigated the death of Chrissy Dunnington for possible criminal negligence after her family raised concerns about her care at the Parkstone Enhanced Care facility in Halifax.
Her family has said she was transported to hospital with an infected bedsore on Jan. 28 and died in hospital about eight weeks later on March 22. They said Dunnington, who was in a wheelchair due to her spina bifida and hydrocephalus, stayed still for long periods of time.
Shannex Inc., Parkstone’s owner, later issued a brief statement, saying, “We take this matter seriously and will fully co-operate with the Halifax Police.”