McCluskey says nursing home placement lacks compassion

By Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
December 2 2020

EASTERN SHORE – Former Moser River resident Marie Turner entered Northwood Continuing Care facility last November. While it was her first placement, it was not her first choice. When she applied, she selected Harbourview Lodge (HVL) in Sheet Harbour as her first choice, to allow her to live in the same community as her family.

Turner’s sister, former Dartmouth mayor Gloria McCluskey, is unhappy her sister has not, after a year, been transferred back to her home.

McCluskey looked into the policy posted on the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) website.

“The policy reads ‘as soon as a vacancy becomes available – you are transferred to your first choice’ – but that’s not true. She’s housed now – they have no compassion. There have been vacancies in HVL over the past year but no transfer for Marie,” she says.

Turner contracted COVID-19 last spring as a Northwood resident and spent months unable to have any visits from family members, especially while she was ill.

“Marie was in a room with another woman and they didn’t even move her,” complains McCluskey. “She suffered from pains in her legs and headaches. She was lucky and did not become extremely ill – and she survived.”

The former politician with a 23-year history in municipal government stresses long-term care facility workers are underpaid for the work they do.

“They work hard. Administration undervalues the work they do so they can have a lower pay scale. They’ve dropped the ball. COVID should never have been in there [Northwood].”

Turner will turn 93 on Dec. 6 and her sister says she should have been given the opportunity months ago – before the pandemic – to transfer to HVL to spend these years near her children and grandchildren.

“They don’t care,” McCluskey tells The Journal by phone. “They have such little empathy for seniors. The dear soul has already had COVID, she could have been transferred before this second wave.”

McCluskey does not feel there is any hope her sister will get moved now.

“They’ve closed the facilities again. They had given false hope and now there is no solution – they are not going to move anybody now,” she said.

McCluskey and Turner are two of the four sisters left from a family of nine.

“How little do our seniors mean? They seem to think seniors only die anyway. They built our country and deserve dignity,” McCluskey says.

Arthur Turner, Marie’s son, tells The Journal how difficult it was for his family when his mom was diagnosed with coronavirus.

“I feel frustration about her being there – and not here – as her choice was. The system should be in place that puts her where she chooses to live.”

The last time Arthur saw his mother, in person, was this fall at Northwood. “I had all the COVID gear on and was able to hug her – but only for a second.”

When Turner heard of his mother’s COVID diagnosis he felt there had been no consideration for either his mother or her family.

“We might never see her again. She was quite low and we couldn’t visit and maybe had seen her for the last time….”

Communication with his mother, while she lives in a facility 90 kilometres away from him, has proven to be a challenge.

“We try to reach her by phone – but we usually can’t get a hold of her. It’s always an ordeal,” Arthur says. “We have to wait until the nurses are available to help us set it up and get Mom to the phone. She is in her room a lot.”

Arthur remains hopeful his mother will ultimately get the transfer she desires and become a resident at Harbourview Lodge.

“It would be so good for her to return to her home community. I feel she deserves it, really. You know, she taught school down here and worked for the Guild faithfully,” he shares. “She was a real good person – she was a member of the Eastern Star and helped raise a lot of money for her community. She set a good example.”

Arthur’s sister, Ann Martin, is a registered nurse at HVL.

“It would be wonderful for Mom to be here and have my sister so close – helping to care for her. We could all see her. I know during COVID they were not moving anybody but there have been quite a few openings here – but there always seems to be red tape,” she says.

The Journal contacted NSHA to inquire about the transfer and placement policy, but did not receive a reply by press time.