It would seem very tempting to blame politicians of all stripes for the situation being faced in hospitals across the province with overcrowded medical units and patients being stuck in hospital beds when they belong in long-term care facilities.
The Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre is facing a crisis. Almost all its medical beds are filled with patients who either in palliative care or are awaiting placement in a nursing home.
There aren’t nearly enough long-term care beds in Cumberland County, or in Nova Scotia for that matter, and a bottleneck has been created, backing up emergency rooms and leaving sick people in hallways instead of hospital rooms.
In recent months, Nova Scotia’s three political parties have traded accusations as to who is responsible. The Conservatives said they had a plan to build more long-term care facilities that was stopped when the New Democrats came to power in 2009, saying the province’s financial situation prevents it from creating more long-term care beds.
Instead, the New Democrats are advocating the use of home care to allow seniors and others needing extended care to remain in their homes and be cared for by family members with support from various agencies. It’s an ambitious plan that government feels will work if only the mindset of Nova Scotians could change from using hospitals as temporary stopping places on the way to a long-term care facility.
The baby boomer question is not a new one. In the 1960s and 1970s university professors were talking about the impact the aging baby boomer population would have on the health-care system.
At the time, some may have called it fear mongering, but as evidenced by today’s packed emergency rooms and hospitals it’s quite evident that those 40- and 50-year-old predictions have come true.
You can understand government’s position in not wanting to create more long-term care beds and open more buildings because the cost would be astronomical – something the province simply cannot afford.
Then again, throwing the burden at the children of seniors and telling them they must shoulder the responsibility of caring for their aging parents at the same time they try to earn a living places too many people in a situation they don’t want to be in.
The fact is, thanks to emerging and improving medical technology people are living longer lives. This, combined with the bubble that is a huge baby boomer population, is stretching an already stretched health-care system closer to the breaking point.
This may the great challenge of this generation.