NS long-term care home asks family members to help due to staff shortages

A long-term care administrator in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley says resignations have increased as the vaccine mandate approaches, exacerbating an already acute shortage of staff.

Menna MacIsaac, CEO of Grand View Manor in Berwick, NS, said her facility has lost 13 employees due to layoffs over the past three weeks.

“Some of them quit because of the stress of working in long-term care right now,” MacIsaac said in an interview. “And some of them quit because they did not want to be vaccinated.”

A further three staff members are unvaccinated and will be on leave when the province’s mandatory vaccination policy for health workers takes effect, MacIsaac said. Workers have until November 30 to prove they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Grand View Manor, home to about 140 residents, requires about 150 workers to complete the schedule each week.

Grand View Manor has 142 beds, making it the largest long-term care facility in the Annapolis Valley. (Steve Lawrence / CBC)

Ask the families to fill out

Due to staff shortages, the home has asked designated caregivers “to take a more active part in resident care.”

“Assistance with meals, mobility and personal care will make a significant contribution [to] the well-being of our residents, ”the home management team wrote in a note to families last week.

MacIsaac said she is grateful that many designated caregivers have taken up the call, allowing trained staff to focus more on clinical care. But, she said, it is not a long-term solution.

Grand View Manor is looking to hire to replace the staff it has lost and to cover more stress-related absences.

MacIsaac said vacancies include licensed practical nurses, continuing care assistants and registered nurses. She said the positions have been posted on several online job boards and the administration is working with immigration agencies to recruit internationally.

Underlying issues: Wages, staffing and education

The vaccine mandate has exacerbated the staff crisis for Grand View Manor, but MacIsaac said she still supports the policy.

“We serve a very vulnerable population and I do not want a tragedy.”

She pointed to three problems as the basis for a shortage of staff that has grown in Nova Scotia’s long-term care sector since before the pandemic. Like many others in the sector, MacIsaac said the provincial government needs to raise wages, especially for continuing care assistants, and increase the ratio of staff to residents.

MacIsaac also said she would like to see more seats added to Nova Scotia Community College’s LPN program, which routinely has a waiting list. In some NSCC locations, the waiting time may be several years.

Grand View Manor is among a growing number of long-term care homes that are closed to new admissions because they do not have staff to support more residents. Grand View closed admissions about two weeks ago and has an open bed, MacIsaac said.

A call for military aid

She said she is pleased with some of the recent steps the province has taken to address staffing of long-term care, including a plan to hire recruiters.

“However, I think we’ll probably get to a point where we need a more strategic response. Just like we might need military personnel who have health professional backgrounds to help or something along those lines if the situation arises. than it is at the moment. “

She said the province has offered a five percent budget surplus for homes to be sublet in the next six months, but for her facility, that offer misses the mark.

“We have enough budget to be able to hire people, but there are no people – limited people, I must say – who are actually applying for these jobs.”

The minister responsible for long-term care says workers could be picked up from outside Nova Scotia to deal with any vaccine-related staff shortages. (CBC)

Barbara Adams, the minister for seniors and long-term care, said earlier this month that her department would contact all 133 nursing homes to assess their needs as the deadline for the vaccine mandate approaches.

She said the province would come up with individualized contingency plans for homes that need help, which could include bringing in workers from other provinces.

MacIsaac said she has not heard anything about a contingency plan yet, but she would like outside help at Grand View.

As of November 24, the last time the province provided an update, 95 percent of long-term care staff were fully vaccinated and four percent were partially vaccinated, and 97 percent reported.

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