North­wood re­port points to gov­ern­ment cut­backs, other de­ci­sions

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - STU­ART PED­DLE sped­dle@her­ald.ca @Guy­la­fur

The union rep­re­sent­ing nurses and other health-care work­ers who worked at North­wood’s Hal­i­fax cam­pus dur­ing the out­break of COVID-19 that led to the death of 53 res­i­dents has re­leased a re­port into gov­ern­ment cuts and prac­tices at the se­niors home.

The Nova Sco­tia Gov­ern­ment and Gen­eral Em­ploy­ees Union mem­bers were re­de­ployed to the fa­cil­ity to help with the pan­demic in April.

The 24-page NSGEU re­port, en­ti­tled Ne­glect­ing North­wood and orig­i­nally pre­pared for a provin­cial re­view into what hap­pened at North­wood, high­lights four key is­sues that the union said put staff and res­i­dents at fur­ther risk:

• Years of gov­ern­ment fund­ing cuts to long term care fa­cil­i­ties with­out un­der­stand­ing the risks the cuts cre­ated.

• In­fec­tion con­trol con­cerns raised by North­wood were dis­missed and fund­ing de­nied for pro­pos­als to elim­i­nate dou­ble and triple oc­cu­pancy in rooms.

• The use of per­sonal pro­tec­tive equip­ment (PPEs), such as masks, were de­layed even though other ju­ris­dic­tions im­ple­mented the safety prac­tices ear­lier.

• Not re­spond­ing quickly enough once the first case of COVID was iden­ti­fied in the fa­cil­ity.

NSGEU Pres­i­dent Jason Ma­cLean said last week that he would not take part in the provin­cial re­view due to the se­cre­tive process.

The union has also de­cided not to sub­mit the re­port to the North­wood Re­view Com­mit­tee but in­stead re­leased it pub­licly, be­cause any sub­mis­sions to the com­mit­tee would not be pro­vided to the pub­lic in any form, a news re­lease sent out on Tues­day said.

“We fully wanted to par­tic­i­pate, but once I re­al­ized it was a se­cre­tive na­ture, I had to back off, and I re­ally had to think,” Ma­cLean said in a tele­phone in­ter­view on Tues­day. “We wanted to share this with gov­ern­ment be­cause at first we were pre­par­ing a re­port to go to the De­part­ment of Health and Well­ness as a de­brief. And then, all of a sud­den, we got called for this re­port, and when we delved fur­ther into it, I (saw) that I would have been sub­ject to a fine and jail time, and I thought this was the wrong way to go about it.

“What we’re look­ing at is want­ing real change that will af­fect Nova Sco­tians. And not only will af­fect Nova Sco­tians mov­ing for­ward, but other gov­ern­ments will learn from this, as well, be­cause (the) long-term care sys­tem is some­thing that is grow­ing, it’s on the rise, and we can­not sit by any longer and watch our el­derly suf­fer at the hands of bad de­ci­sions made by gov­ern­ment.”

He said Nova Sco­tians ul­ti­mately need an open and trans­par­ent pub­lic in­quiry, and with one, change will have to fol­low.

“When you’re look­ing at 53 peo­ple that passed away, that is tragedy, and a tragedy that we be­lieve could have been avoided, but it’s not about point­ing blame at any­body, it’s about find­ing out what hap­pened and what went wrong. We need to have that open con­ver­sa­tion and learn from it. Nova Sco­tians need to know, the fam­i­lies need jus­tice, and they need to feel com­fort­able about their loved ones that they weren’t able to see or be with through­out this. And ul­ti­mately, we’ll be bet­ter off and have a bet­ter long-term care sys­tem.”

The re­port can be found on­line at: https:// nsgeu.ca/wp-con­tent/up­loads/2020/08/north­woodreport-nsgeu.pdf .

Heather Fair­bairn, spokes­woman for the De­part­ment of Health and Well­ness, said in an emailed state­ment that the health and safety of res­i­dents and staff is top pri­or­ity.

“As well, we would like to ac­knowl­edge and thank all the staff who worked so hard to de­liver care in these chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances,” she said.

“Our goal with the re­view is to de­ter­mine what hap­pened at North­wood and ad­dress any­thing that will help avoid or con­tain fu­ture out­breaks of COVID-19. We ex­pect that would be the NSGEU’s goal as well. The re­view­ers have be­gun their work, and do­ing so un­der the (Qual­ity-Im­prove­ment

In­for­ma­tion Pro­tec­tion) Act en­sures a com­pre­hen­sive re­view and timely re­sults. The rec­om­men­da­tions pre­sented to the Min­is­ter will be made avail­able to the fam­i­lies, and the rest of the pub­lic, when the re­view is com­plete.”

Op­po­si­tion politi­cians aren’t buy­ing it.

Nova Sco­tia NDP Leader Gary Bur­rill said the NSGEU re­port high­lights how badly a full-fledged pub­lic in­quiry into long-term care is needed.

“The ev­i­dence com­ing out of the re­port calls out very clearly that what we need is an in­quiry un­der the Pub­lic In­quiries Act of the province,” Bur­rill said.

“It’s very plainly stip­u­lated that the re­search, and the ev­i­dence, and the anal­y­sis, and the rea­son­ing – that is to say, 98 per cent of the mat­ter – is not go­ing to be made pub­licly avail­able.”

Bur­rill said the re­port makes it clear the sub­ject is so far-reach­ing that it’s “en­tirely in­ap­pro­pri­ate to pro­ceed in a be­hind-closed­doors, se­cret way.”

Tim Hous­ton, leader of the Nova Sco­tia Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives also slammed the re­view process as se­cre­tive.

“There’s a con­tra­dic­tion be­tween Pre­mier McNeil’s de­scrip­tion of his gov­ern­ment’s per­for­mance, and the proof pro­vided by front­line work­ers who were in the trenches at North­wood dur­ing the pan­demic,” he said in an emailed state­ment.

“Nova Sco­tians wanted an open and trans­par­ent process to get an­swers about North­wood. In­stead, like the mass-shoot­ing re­view, this gov­ern­ment has at­tempted to sweep those de­tails un­der the rug.”

SALTWIRE NET­WORK FILE PHOTO

Ma­clean

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