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On Sept. 5, 2018, Randy Delorey, the minister of health and wellness, announced the formation of an expert advisory panel, chaired by Dr. Janice Keefe of Mount Saint Vincent University, to recommend improvements in the quality of long-term care in Nova Scotia. Over the course of the next 12 weeks, the panel reported that they had engaged over 375 people in their review. When the panel publicly released its report and recommendations on Jan. 15, there was broad public interest. The stakeholder briefing session was well attended. Most media outlets covered the report and reactions to it.
At that time, the minister said that government accepted the intent of all the recommendations and that they would work towards implementing them, based on timelines suggested by the panel. However, there was no detailed response provided by the department, at that time or subsequently.
There have been some general statements and some specific announcements. For example, in the 2019-20 business plan for the department, it was indicated that: “The department would continue to work with its partners to implement these recommendations and improve the quality of care provided in long care facilities.” In the budget documents tabled on March 26, it was announced that there would be a total of $5 million, including $2.8 million this year, to implement the findings of the expert advisory panel, including wound care, service co-ordination, and staffing.
I and members of Advocates for the Care of the Elderly (ACE) team have felt increasingly concerned and frustrated with the lack of specific details about the response of the department to the expert panel report. As a result, I submitted a FOIPOP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) application on March 19, to ask for a copy of all records related to the response of the department to the release of the final report and recommendations. After negotiating a reduced cost of $150 (originally, it was to be $300) in processing fees, I finally received, on June 26, 564 pages in a PDF file and 616 pages when I printed this package.
While a large number of materials was provided to me, a great deal of information was redacted (blacked out) throughout the package. In particular, several tables of work underway on the recommendations of the panel report were redacted throughout the package. More specifically, these redactions applied to information about the “alignment with current work,” “Impact on the Workforce” and “Budget” or “Budget Planning Ask.” Draft media releases and ministerial and department responses were redacted, and responses to media questions were also partially redacted. Information on workplace injuries in long-term care were almost totally redacted, as were options for CCA bursaries. Reporting on implementation of the recommendations was partially redacted.
On Aug. 12, I filed a request for a review of how my application was handled with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Nova Scotia. However, I was told I will not hear back from them for three-and-a-half to four years.
Thus, while the minister said in January that government accepted the intent of the recommendations, and that there is a variety of work underway, it is certainly not clear to me exactly what work is being done, by which group or body, at what cost, with what potential impacts and for what time periods. What I received was a confusing jumble of redacted records about the response of the department to the expert advisory panel report, in a partially organized chronological order, but there was very little clarity about what is being done, or planned to be done, in an open and transparent manner.
The ACE Team has been told there will be a communication coming this fall about the government’s progress in implementing the recommendations of the expert panel. Surely, Nova Scotians should not have to wait at least eight months to know the status of the government’s progress. It should have been done on a regular basis as part of the government’s overall plans for long-term care in the short and longer term. Where is the openness and transparency the government promised in 2013?
Please help the ACE Team to impress upon the minister of health and wellness, your local MLA, and even candidates in the upcoming federal election, to be clear about their plans for long-term care.
Ian Johnson lives in Halifax, and is a member of Advocates for the Care of the Elderly (ACE) team. He had three loved ones living in long-term care.
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