N.S. nurses say pandemic in care homes 'tragic reminder' of staffing shortages

Nova Scotia Nurses' Union (Twitter)

The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union says pandemic infections and deaths in the province's nursing homes have been a "tragic reminder" of the province's failure to bring in higher staffing levels it recommended four years ago.

The preface to a study paper released today argues the lack of nurses to assess residents and monitor those with severe dementia is "highly relevant" to the control of infectious disease.

The union hired Charlene Harrington, an expert on long-term care staffing who served on the U.S. Institute of Medicine Committee on Nursing Home Regulation, to prepare the 27-page paper last year.

She repeats recommendations from the union's 2015-16 "Broken Homes" study, calling for an average of 4.1 hours of care per resident per day, including 1.3 hours of nursing care.

According to the union, that would mean about 20 per cent more staff, or 600 nurses and 1,400 continuing care assistants.

Harrington's work was completed prior to the pandemic crisis, but a preface has been added to the report which says her findings are given added urgency by the COVID-19 deaths and infections of the past three months.