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Lack of housing may cause healthcare worker shortage in St. Mary’s

  • June 7 2023
  • By Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

ST. MARY’S – A growing lack of available accommodations in St. Mary’s could soon cause a critical scarcity of healthcare workers for the area’s aging population, says the co-chair of the Guysborough County Housing Network (GCHN).

“An issue across this county is a shortage of rentals for healthcare workers,” Nancy O’Regan told St. Mary’s council recently in a presentation of GCHN’s newly completed, two-year investigation into housing in northeastern Nova Scotia.

The problem in St. Mary’s, she noted, may be exacerbated by conditions that are particularly prevalent here, where home ownership runs at about 88 per cent, compared with about 67 per cent, generally, across the province.

“In St. Mary’s, there are a large number of older houses containing older people.

These homes are not necessarily suitable to them — in terms of the size, the maintenance, their ability to keep them heated and taken care of. But, there’s not enough other housing available to them. They have very limited options.”

If, she said, older residents had more options, they could move and “release their housing stock for younger folks” moving into the district.

She added that GCHN’s research project — which involved several community meetings, dozens of individual interviews, and raw data collection — shows that affordable and available housing “is not just about housing anymore. It’s about whole lot of intersecting needs. We are seeing all those issues crossing in together… That was our biggest learning.”

As for solutions to the looming housing crisis for essential workers in St. Mary’s, she noted, “I know there is a new program from the province that came out this year to buy modular housing and have that in place for either transient or new healthcare workers moving into the area. The Municipality of the District of Guysborough is looking into some of that money now. I think it’s a partnership with the Department of Health; so, if they haven’t asked you, then ask them if that’s something that you think is an issue here.”

St. Mary’s Warden Greg Wier, who also works as maintenance co-ordinator for High-Crest Sherbrooke, a 39-bed nursing care facility, confirmed that it is an issue for the municipality.