FREDERICTON (GNB) – Auditor General Kim MacPherson highlighted a number of concerns regarding current and future nursing home bed demand, as well as the impact long waiting lists are having on the health-care system in her report tabled today in the legislative assembly.

During the last 15 years, the budget for nursing home services almost tripled, far outpacing overall provincial expense growth. The facilities are also operating at near capacity and hundreds of people are on a waiting list.

There are more than 4,000 nursing home beds in the province, however it is predicted the number of seniors in New Brunswick will double during the next 20 years. If the demand for nursing home services remains consistent, MacPherson estimated more than 10,000 nursing home beds could be needed by 2036.

“To put this in context, in the last decade only about 300 new nursing home beds were opened in New Brunswick, which represents barely five per cent of the projected future growth in demand by 2036,” said MacPherson.

The report also found that the government is not adequately reporting its performance in addressing senior care concerns.

“The nursing home budget is growing at an unsustainable rate and is not meeting existing demand let alone future needs,” said MacPherson. “A comprehensive long-term plan is needed to care for our ageing population and must include a multi-faceted solution involving nursing homes, other long-term care facilities, in-home care, family support or other options to serve New Brunswick seniors. The solution is not simply to add more nursing home beds to the system.”

The report also revealed 60 per cent of individuals waiting for placement in a nursing home are occupying acute-care beds in New Brunswick hospitals, with an average wait time of almost four months. In fact, they occupy about one of every five acute-care beds.

“We estimated caring for seniors in more expensive acute-care hospital beds cost an extra $40 million during the past five years,” said MacPherson. “These individuals could be receiving more appropriate care for their needs at a lower cost to the taxpayer in a nursing home.”

In addition, the report revisited a previous recommendation from 2009, not yet fully implemented by the Department of Social Development. It was to assess whether a public-private model for delivering nursing homes services is more economical than the traditional funding model.

MacPherson made three new recommendations to the department regarding nursing homes:

  • in consultation with the Department of Health, develop a comprehensive long-term plan to ensure the province can continue to provide sustainable services to seniors;
  • report publicly on the outcomes of current and future initiatives around services to seniors; and
  • evaluate whether there is an economic benefit to providing nursing home beds under the public-private model versus the traditional model.

The chapter on nursing homes can be found in Volume I of the 2016 Auditor General Report, which contains three new performance reports. The volume and one page summaries for the chapters are available online.