Question Period: Health Care System- May 15, 2015

Mr. Coon: The Chalmers hospital in Fredericton and, for that matter, hospitals around the province are bursting at the seams. They are in gridlock—so much so that surgeries are being canceled, patients are trapped in ER hallways for days, and people are dying without dignity.

They cannot be given private rooms because they are not available. The chief of surgery at the Chalmers has taken to the airwaves. The chiefs of medical staff from many of our regional hospitals have taken to the newspapers. Hospitals are in gridlock, and short-term solutions need to be imposed now. Hospitals are housing seniors because nursing homes will not take them. Eighty percent of the costs of operating those nursing homes are paid by the people of this province—80%.

My question for the Minister of Social Development is this: Will she require existing nursing homes to take in seniors who are stuck in our hospitals to start to relieve some of this gridlock?

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: The entire preamble to the question had to do with hospitals. I am the Minister of Health, so I will take that question.

We have talked about this many times. I have been in the media a lot lately talking about this situation. The member, I am sure, has heard me talk about this before. The member and the opposition are making it sound as if this is a situation that has happened over the last six months.

We have an aging population in New Brunswick, and we do have an alternate level of care bed situation in the province. This did not happen in the last six or seven months. This has been decades in the making. People do not go from being 45 to being 75 in six months.

We are working very closely to address these challenges. My colleague the Minister of Social Development and I, with our departments, are working nonstop to try to come up with some solutions—short-term, long-term, and . . .

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.

Mr. Coon: The minister is right. Of course, this problem has been building for a long time, and now, as a result, there is gridlock in our hospitals. The minister is part of the government that is in place now, and his responsibility is to start to relieve that gridlock now. We need short-term solutions.

During rounds at the Chalmers this week, Dr. Christie, the chief of ethics for the Horizon Health Network, made an interesting proposal. If, for every 12 beds nursing homes are licensed to operate, nursing homes were required to take in one additional senior who is now stuck in a hospital, no seniors would be forced to live in hospitals. This would open up hospital beds and would be part of a short-term solution to relieve the gridlock in our acute care hospitals. It would provide far more suitable housing, even if it was a little crowded, for seniors in need of nursing care.

Will the minister use her powers under section 12 of the Nursing Homes Act to expand nursing home licenses to accommodate seniors who are stuck in hospitals . . .

Mr. Speaker: Time. Time, member.

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Again, we do need to identify some short-, medium-, and long-term solutions, but building nursing homes, the last time I checked, took approximately 18 months.

That would be in the long-term category. I believe that, in the short-term category, we need to look at home care. We need to look at the role our Extra-Mural Program plays. We need to make sure we are maximizing the resources we have on the ground, and we are doing that.

As part of the Strategic Program Review, there is a targeted initiative, a project under way, involving the Department of Social Development, the Department of Health, and the RHAs. We have had presentations from the New Brunswick Nursing Home Association. Other partners are going to be asked to play a role.

We realize that this is a challenge. We are asking people to give us the time to make sure we get it right. We do not want to rush to conclusions. This is a situation that has been decades in the making. What was done in the previous four years . . .

Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.

Mr. Coon: In the short term, I was not talking about building new nursing homes. I was talking about requiring existing nursing homes to take extra seniors from hospitals into their existing buildings, adding a couple of extra beds. They would have to be licensed for that. Building new nursing homes is something that is needed in the long term, but, in the short term, we have to resolve this crisis.

The chiefs of medical staff for the Chalmers hospital, the Saint John Regional Hospital, the Moncton Hospital, the Upper River Valley Hospital, and the Miramichi Hospital have written to both the Minister of Social Development and the Minister of Health to propose a series of short term solutions to break the gridlock in our hospitals. Will the Minister of Social Development commit to meeting with them and—together—her colleague the Minister of Health?

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: I have been saying that, yes, we are working on those initiatives. There is one thing that the doctors have failed to point out, unfortunately. Their letter did have a lot of good suggestions, but those suggestions amount to tens of millions of dollars. We need to make sure that we are able to pay for this. I have not yet heard from the member opposite how he would suggest that we pay for these additional services. They are possible solutions, but we need to identify how we are going to pay for them.

This is a situation that needs to be dealt with. It is a situation our government is committed to dealing with. We are looking at bringing all the partners together. We need to have dialogue to make sure that the entire continuum of care, from home care to special care homes to nursing homes to hospitals to palliative care services, is properly planned and properly resourced. That does not happen overnight, but we are working diligently at that.



May 15, 2015 Not finalized / Non finalisé le 15 mai 2015