Activists, unions join forces to win best care possible for LTC residents


BOB SILVERSTEIN DIDN’T LET IT GO. His father-in-law was dead. The facts of how and where wouldn’t let Bob forgive or forget.

Bob is now the chair of Nova Scotians for Long-term Care Reform, a brand new coalition of activists and unions leading the charge for the highest quality of care for seniors living in long term care residences in Nova Scotia.

Bob Silverstein’s 93-year old father-in-law John Ferguson, died on October 25, 2017, while living at Harbourstone Enhanced Care nursing home in Sydney, Cape Breton. He died of toxic shock from two infected bedsores on his buttocks. That’s when Bob became a militant senior care activist.

The scourge of bedsores

John Ferguson was not the first nursing home resident to die of bedsores in NS.

Forty-year old Chrissy Dunnington died in 2018 from a massive bone-deep pressure ulcer that became infected while living in the Shannex-owned Parkstone Enhanced Care home in Halifax.

Forty-nine-year old Lorna Jones died in 2016 of the same thing—septic shock from infected bedsores, while living in a Shannex-owned complex in Dartmouth.

Neither nursing home was found negligent in the care they gave to either Dunningham or Jones. But John Ferguson’s death was different.

A 15-month investigation concluded John died because the Harbourstone Enhanced Care nursing home failed to provide adequate nutrition, care, medical attention and the necessities of life to the 93-year old.

The ugly truth of what happened to his father-in-law moved Bob to found Families for Quality Eldercare. It’s focus was on eliminating bedsores and achieving better eldercare in Cape Breton in general. The new Nova Scotians for Long-term care Reform has broader goals.

Coalition has a broader mission

Members of the coalition include: Advocates for Care of the Elderly (ACE Group), Families for Quality Eldercare, Nova Scotia Nurses Union (NSNU), Nova Scotia Health Coalition (NSHC) including Unifor, Nova Scotia Government and General Employees (NSGEU), Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), and four member-at-large individuals.

“The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union supports any organization, effort, or recommendation that strives to improve long term care in this province,” said Janet Hazelton, president of the NSNU.

“The coalition mission is to improve the quality of long-term care in all of Nova Scotia. Having the unions and other advocates involved will provide the voice needed to make a difference in long-term care.

“The NSNU is eager to see hours of care per resident increased to meet the needs of these vulnerable citizens. This has long been a goal of the NSNU, and, in light of the impact COVID-19 has had in long term care facilities the world over, we cannot afford to wait a minute longer to enact change.”

The coalition used an open letter to the provincial government to set out some key assessments and concerns including˜ that:

  • ˜˜˜˜the cause of the crisis of covid deaths in long-term care residences is “endemic to a system that is underfunded, and that serves a population that is undervalued.”
  • the “evasive” nature of the minster of heath’s position on the need to move staffing ratios to the “internationally established consensus” of 4.1 hours of care per resident per day.
  • “It’s not simply a matter of improving ratios; we need to make long-term care an attractive place to work by ensuring adequate wages and hours of work for essential support workers, and appropriate training for all staff.”

Federal money available

Where will the money come from to do all this? Perhaps the federal government.

A Trudeau government October 15 announcement of a change to an Infrastructure Canada program opens the way for Nova Scotia to spend $828 million on “schools, nursing homes and hospitals” if it undertakes to pay just 10% of that amount.

You can find Nova Scotians for Long-term Care Reform on Facebook at…

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