GUYSBOROUGH – The Nova Scotia government issued a press release last week asking healthcare workers not in the workforce to fill positions in long-term care facilities to address staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing vacancies.
The initiative may relieve some of the immediate issues at long-term care facilities across the province, but a permanent plan is needed. For months, the Milford Haven Home for Special Care in Guysborough has advertised numerous job vacancies including CCAs, LPNs, and Director of Care.
Norman Izzard, a former Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) councillor, sat on the board of directors for the facility during his time as an elected official. His wife, who worked at the facility for 25 years, has been a resident of the home for four years. He spoke to The Journal on Jan. 24 about the impact staff shortages have had on care.
“That’s a great concern for those of us who have loved ones in there because, when those things are going on, our loved ones are suffering. One way or the other, because whatever way you slice the pie, there’s neglect there due to the shortages,” said Izzard, adding, “I go every day to feed my wife and sometimes I go in the afternoon to feed her due to shortages.”
Izzard said the facility needs to hire and retain staff.
“We’re paying the same price, for the number that is supposed to be there, and they’re not there…what we signed up for, we’re being deprived of that... that is why I am addressing the issue about my loved one and other people’s loved ones.”
When asked if he thought things had changed since the facility changed ownership from the MODG to GEM Health Care Group, Izzard said, “Yes it did. For instance, there’s a whole bunch of things right from administration down I would say. They can’t seem to keep administrative people there in position, for one reason or another. I am not privileged to that [information]. I’m not on the board of directors now but, if I was, I would be questioning that.”
In Quebec, during the first wave of the pandemic, the military was brought in the shore up struggling nursing homes.
Izzard said, “I don’t think we’re at that point, but they really have to pull up their socks and get things in place because all people are doing now is blaming it on COVID. Every time you’d mention something, it’s, ‘COVID, COVID, COVID.’ We’re going to have to live with COVID the rest of our lives. Are our loved ones going to have to go through that until they pass on?”
Izzard said he believes people are scared to speak up about the conditions at the home, but he wants to see things improve and hopes publicly voicing his concerns will improve the situation.
“When we signed up there, they had a quiet room for when you have your last days. We’re not privileged to that anymore. And, the other room that was for families when their loved ones are ready to pass, there’s supposed to be a family room, we don’t even have that because the staff is using it because of COVID. And nobody seems to be doing anything to get these things rectified.”
With years of interaction with the home, Izzard knows the facility better than most and said, “It’s not the same as when the municipality ran it. And I’m not saying that because I was part of the municipality and the board of directors, but it’s not the same place. And they [GEM] made a commitment that it would be even better.”
On Jan. 25, GEM Healthcare Group provided the following statement regarding staffing shortages: “Like most other healthcare facilities across the province, Milford Haven is dealing with a staffing shortage. As a result, several of our beds are currently vacant and we are not accepting additional residents until our staffing situation improves.
“Our recruitment efforts are ongoing as we continue to fill staffing shortages. We have also taken the initiative to create our own in-house training to enhance the capabilities of existing staff while we recruit new employees. Our next training course begins on February 14 and anyone interested in applying can contact Milford Haven directly to learn more about the program.”