NSHA responds to placement policy criticism

By Janice Christie, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
December 9 2020

SHEET HARBOUR – Gloria McCluskey wants her 93-year-old sister, Marie Turner, transferred from Northwood Terrance in Halifax to Harbourview Lodge Continuing Care (HVL) in Sheet Harbour. As reported in last week’s Journal, HVL is close to Turner’s home of Moser River and near her children and grandchildren.

When Turner applied for placement, her first choice was HVL, but she went to Northwood in Halifax in November of 2019. She and her family had expected a transfer to HVL, when the next available opening became available. They are disappointed that a year has passed and she is no closer to Sheet Harbour than she was 12 months ago.

“There’s currently a province-wide hospital variance to long-term care placement as a result of the pandemic,” Northern Zone Provincial Placement Lead Mark Scales told The Journal in an email.

“This means we continue to prioritize people who require long-term care placement under the Adult Protection Act (priority 1) or through a process we call a community variance (priority 2) placement or patients from hospital (priority 3). Placements for people waiting at home for a placement to their preferred facility or people waiting to transfer between nursing homes remain on hold.”

Scales said that during a hospital variance, inter-facility transfers are considered in exceptional circumstances and on a case-by-case basis.

“We look at each individual's situation. For example, transferring a resident to a French-speaking facility where they can receive care in their native language or transferring residents, if their care level changes to a facility that offers that level of care.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Scales said there are fewer nursing home beds available and, at the same time, there is an increase in numbers of patients waiting in hospital to move to long-term care.

“We have also experienced reductions in some community-based services like respite beds and adult day programs, which have left families with fewer supports and increased stress. Our priorities in placement right now are to ensure people at high risk in the community, and those waiting in hospital, move into long-term care in a timely way,” Scales said.

“We are doing this to reduce harm for those at highest risk in community,” said Scales, “… to move people in hospital to a more appropriate environment for their care needs and to enable hospital care for those who need it.”

The director says the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) department responsible for placements continues to monitor the situation closely and “… are working towards resuming normal placement processes as soon as we are able.”