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CBC NB (June 15) Nursing Homes Investigate Growing Staff Shortages

Seniors can't move from hospital beds to nursing home without adequate staffing, minister says

Recruiting people to work in nursing homes has been a longtime challenge in New Brunswick, and the problem is getting worse, industry spokesperson Jody Hall warns.

Homes typically have low turnover of staff, but they have always had difficulty attracting registered nurses, said Hall, the executive director of the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes.

"More recently, we have noticed the trouble with recruitment is changing to include other care workers," she said.

The canary in the coal mine, according to Health Minister Victor Boudreau, may be a Moncton nursing home that recently added a 60-bed wing, which sits empty."We've got nursing homes that are under construction in Moncton," Boudreau said. "One is recently completed but is now having some challenges finding staff, so you can't move the seniors into that nursing home until it's staffed up."

To understand whether the staff shortage in Moncton is part of a larger issue, Hall said, the New Brunswick association recently completed a survey of its members.

Strong response rate to survey

Hall said the survey "digs in" to what is behind the recruitment challenges and had an 85 per cent response rate.

"We are trying to understand if it's a provincial issue or if it's more localized, is it for just one category of care employee, or is it for all of them that the homes are having this recruitment problem," she said.

The survey results have not been compiled yet, but Hall is confident wages are not the problem.

'This is part of why we're doing this study. It's trying to understand is this the new norm? Or is this a localized phenomenon that we need to try and understand.'- Jody Hall, N.B. Association of Nursing Homes

"Just to find people with the right credentials or people interested in doing this type of work with a 24-7 schedule ... there's lots of things that sometimes people may see as less attractive."

Hall said an action plan will be developed from the survey, which could include partnerships with community colleges.

"We have two nursing homes that are working in partnership with CCNB to address their local recruitment needs by introducing a new type of co-op program for personal support workers," she said.

"That's the type of thing that we want to try and understand — what are some of the local initiatives that are being done and where is it working and where isn't it."

Ripple effect of bed shortage

Hall said she's not aware of any other cases in the province where a nursing home couldn't open because of a staff shortage.

"This is part of why we're doing this study. It's trying to understand is this the new norm? Or is this a localized phenomenon that we need to try and understand."

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says finding qualified staff for nursing homes in the Moncton area continues to be difficult. (CBC)

Boudreau said efforts in Moncton to shorten the waiting list for hip and knee replacement surgeries hinges partly on solving the shortage of nursing home beds.

"If you're going to do more surgeries in the hospitals, you're going to have more people staying those few days after surgery, and right now identifying those beds has been a challenge," Boudreau told Information Morning Moncton.

 "We still have seniors, for example, in beds that shouldn't be there."

He said he also worries the problem in the Moncton area will continue as new nursing homes are set to open.

"We have another nursing home being built by Shannex on the Université​ de Moncton campus, and that one will be completed, I believe, this fall. … There's a trickle effect you need to get the seniors out of the beds and into the community setting, where they should be, and then that frees up your beds to deal with your surgery wait times."

Hall believes nursing homes also need to do more to promote the employment opportunities they offer.

"It's a wonderful place to work — there are so many positive and very enriching experiences that employees have in this type of care environment, but sometimes I think we haven't done a good enough job in getting those messages out."

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