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Nova Scotia long-term care panel’s report expected Tuesday

A long-term care expert panel appointed by the provincial Liberals is due to release its report on Tuesday.
A long-term care expert panel appointed by the provincial Liberals is due to release its report on Tuesday. - 123RF Stock Photo

HALIFAX, N.S. - It may have taken more than a year to appoint a long-term care expert panel, but a health-care consultant says its findings won’t be anything new.

“I’m not honestly sure what a panel achieves at this point because we know what the issues are,” said Mary Jane Hampton, a former provincial commissioner for health reform, in an interview on Monday.

An expert panel was part of the Liberal’s continuing care strategy in February 2017, the NDP government learned through a freedom of information request.

The internal presentation referenced an expert panel, but one wasn’t formed until September 2018, three months after Halifax Regional Police announced they were investigating the death of a woman living in a long-term care home.

Chrissy Dunnington, 40, was taken to hospital with an infected bedsore, about three centimetres deep, last January, The Chronicle Herald reported in May. Dunnington died on March 22.

The panel’s report is to be released on Tuesday.

“There isn’t a panel we could bring from anywhere in the land that would be able to come up with different solutions that aren’t already on the table,” said Hampton.

Lack of long-term and home-care capacity and a mismatch between patients and beds are the root causes of long-term care issues, she said.

In September, Health Minister Randy Delorey said the panel may not investigate if the province needs more long-term care beds. The group of experts was to look at staffing and skill levels, wound care, patient and worker safety and the protection of vulnerable persons.

“We need to have the courage to make the decisions that people on the front lines have been telling us we need to make for the last 20 years." - Mary Jane Hampton

“What we’ve got to do is roll up our sleeves and solve our problems,” said Hampton. “The issue really is where we’re prepared to make the investments and how quickly.”

Tammy Martin, NDP health spokeswoman, said the delayed panel appointment is “alarming.”

“If they had’ve done it in 2017 when they said they were going to do it, then maybe now seniors wouldn’t be suffering,” said Martin.

The NDP health spokeswoman echoed Hampton’s call for more long-term care beds.

“These workers in long-term care are doing everything that they possibly can, but there’s not enough of them and there’s not enough beds,” said Martin.

“A couple could be married for 60 years, but when your loved one needs to be placed in long-term care, they could be placed up to four hours away. We’re separating families,” she said.

Martin hopes the report is “the first step in the right direction,” but Hampton said the province has been needing to make a move for the past couple of decades.

“We need to have the courage to make the decisions that people on the front lines have been telling us we need to make for the last 20 years,” said the health-care consultant.

“None of this has snuck up on us. It’s been a slow moving train and now it’s coming through the station,” said Hampton.

A spokeswoman with the province’s Health Department said, “Engagements with stakeholders and experts is part of regular operations when government is considering changes to policy or strategic direction. The long-term care panel established by the minister in the fall is just one example of this type of engagement to provide input.”

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