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Kelly Lamrock is New Brunswick's child, youth and seniors' advocate. Image: Submitted

Urgent action needed in long-term care: advocate

By Brad Perry Mar 13, 2024 | 12:13 PM

New Brunswickers will not feel safe relying on the long-term care system unless urgent government action is taken.

That is one of the main takeaways following a year-long review of the system by the province’s seniors’ advocate.

“We heard loud and clear that New Brunswickers want to feel they can trust that the necessary support will be there when we need help caring for ourselves. We also heard loud and clear that the trust is not yet there,” Kelly Lamrock said Wednesday.

“There are good people providing long-term care, but the system that supports, encourages and funds their work is not yet there.”

Lamrock’s report, which spans nearly 200 pages, identifies seven areas that the government needs to take immediate action.

  • Fixing a “broken and disjointed” needs-assessment system.
  • Better integrating different types of care so patients move easily through the system.
  • Holding the system accountable and ensuring patients and their families are heard.
  • Improving human resources planning and retaining staff.
  • Ensuring the system is better funded and less bureaucratic.
  • Providing better and more accessible supports to support care in people’s homes.
  • Supporting the unique needs of people with disabilities and planning for the future.

“Too often, getting people the right care and making sure they can afford it is held up by overly bureaucratic structures,” said Lamrock.

“We need to make sure that the system meets the person’s needs rather than making the person prove they fit the system’s rules.”

Among the dozens of recommendations in the report include establishing a single financial assessment so families do not have to repeat intake every time a patient’s care needs change.

Lamrock also recommends increasing funding for inspections, improving incentives for aging at home, higher wages for workers, making the system more affordable, and having community-based governing bodies oversee program delivery rather than the Department of Social Development.

The advocate also wants to see “concrete, funded plans” for getting New Brunswick to the national average in terms of hours of care and getting seniors waiting in hospital beds into long-term care by June 30.

“Of all the topics I have reviewed in my three decades of public policy work, few would match this one in terms of the urgency of the work, the anxiety of the people affected and the skepticism that one report will change anything,” he said.

“I must communicate this hard truth to the government: people are genuinely shaken by the state of our health-care services.”

The report comes days after Lamrock made 10 recommendations calling for the government to change the way it plans for budgets and manages social policy to avoid a breakdown of social programs.

A spokesperson for the Department of Social Development said they will take the necessary time to review the report before offering any comment.