Nova Scotia government plans for long-term care inadequate

"Fifty-three people died at this facility, and their families deserve to know what really happened." — Jason MacLean, NSGEU President

Halifax (02 July 2020) — The Nova Scotia government's planned review of the tragic deaths of residents at Northwood Manor is both welcome and necessary, but unfortunately, it raises many unanswered questions.

On June 30, the Minister of Health & Wellness announced two separate review processes. The first, a Quality Improvement Committee, comprised of two appointed members, is supposed to deliver recommendations to the Minister by the end of September after consulting with staff and physicians, administrators, families and others. The second is an internal government review of broader infection prevention and control within the long-term care sector.

According to the Minister, the Northwood review recommendations of the Quality Improvement Committee will be made public after a review period. Furthermore, the Quality Improvement Information Protection Act gives the Minister the authority to limit the information from the review that is released via Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act.

Inquiry process unclear

It is unclear whether residents, NSHA employees who were redeployed to Northwood and unions will be included in this process. How long is the Minister's review period, once he receives the recommendations? And will he commit to share the full report and recommendations with the public, or just the top-level recommendations?

A second wave of COVID-19 could hit as soon as August. Government should have initiated a public inquiry immediately, rather than waiting until the first wave had concluded. We know that a variety of factors, such as double-bunking and inadequate staffing ratios, contributed to the spread of COVID-19 at Northwood Manor. Government needs to take action now to address these known and acknowledged issues.

"Fifty-three people died at this facility, and their families deserve to know what really happened," said Jason MacLean, President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE).

"They deserve to know how staffing issues and inadequate infection control made a bad situation worse. These families and all Nova Scotians deserve to know the answer to a very important question: 'Was this avoidable?' We need to know what could have been done to prevent these deaths, so we can ensure the staff and residents at all long-term care facilities are better protected in the event of a second wave."

Action must be taken now before the next wave

The situation calls for a comprehensive public inquiry that includes an opportunity for everyone - residents, family members, staff and unions - to provide their first-hand accounts of what happened, and what they think could be done better.

Moreover, this must be done in a timely manner. Government must take action now to ensure we are ready for the next wave.

NSGEU/NUPGE continues to call on government to conduct a public inquiry of its response to COVID-19 in home care, long-term care and actute care. 

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE