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Improving Health Care for NL Seniors

Minister Tom Osborne at announcement on Nov. 6 – via Government of NL Facebook Page

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

ST. JOHN’S — On Monday afternoon, Nov. 6, the Provincial Government made an announcement outlining initiatives to improve access to health care for seniors. “Over the recent months, we’ve made significant progress on improving access to healthcare to make life easier for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” said Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services. “This includes initiatives and ideas such as Heart Force One, which is flying people from rural areas to St. John’s to get cardiac cath procedures sooner than expected. 85 patients have benefitted since the start of this program. Our travelling orthopedic teams have allowed people to get knee and hip replacements sooner than expected, meaning hundreds of additional surgeries a year, the majority of these benefit seniors.” A review of long-term care homes and personal care homes was also undertaken by the provincial government. “(The purpose was) to identify opportunities to improve quality of care and quality of life for residents as well as improve quality of work life for staff,” said Osborne. “We also began covering the cost of driver’s medicals for seniors 75 years of age and older with physicians billing MCP directly for this service instead of charging patients. We’ve increased the denture budget and the maximum payable amounts for dentures under the adult medical program. We’ve increased rates provided for government subsided beds in personal care homes and community care homes which support operators to accept more residents who require higher levels of care.” Two new programs, in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Society of Newfoundland and Labrador will help support individuals in the province living with the disease. “We’ve also introduced the Dementia Care Action Plan with 36 recommendations to increase awareness and improve services for those living with dementia and their care partners,” said Osborne. “We know these are all helpful steps in improving care for older adults, but we know that we can do more and we will do more.” Another action that the government took is the establishment of centres in aging at regional hospitals which aim to improve access to quality health care for seniors throughout the province. The Department of Health and Community Service released the following statement regarding this initiative: “The Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services, made the announcement today during the latest Health Care Action update. Minister Osborne was joined by Dr. Pat Parfrey, Deputy Minister of Health Transformation, and Dr. Susan Mercer, Clinical Chief, Older Adult Care, NL Health Services. “The centres of excellence in aging will include: More than 90 beds as part of the new St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital for Acute Care of the Elderly Units (known as ACE Units), as well as rehabilitation and restorative care; Seniors-friendly services, such as special attention to medication, special assistance from medical staff and mobility aids; and, Seniors-friendly emergency care at the existing St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, the new Western Memorial Regional Hospital and the new emergency department at the Health Sciences Centre. “Planning is continuing for a centre of excellence in Central Newfoundland and appropriate programming for Labrador.
“Seniors-friendly emergency care will include services such as: Medical staff trained to provide emergency care specific to older adults; and Equipment designed to make emergency visits more comfortable, such as reclining exam chairs and mobility aids. “To support the centres of excellence in aging the Provincial Government is funding the creation of a new Geriatric Medicine Training Program, as well as the expansion of Memorial University’s Care of the Elderly Training Program for family physicians. Budget 2023 committed approximately $5 million over five years to create the new training program and expand the current training program. “The new training program will provide physicians with additional knowledge and skills needed to provide high-quality care to older adults, which will improve health care outcomes, improve quality of life and help enable seniors to maintain their independence, leading to improved access to quality care for seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador. “The new Geriatric Medicine Training Program, the expansion of the Care of the Elderly Family Physician Training and the creation of centres of excellence in aging align with recommendations from Health Accord NL to increase trained providers in older adult care in all areas of the health system, including family care teams, acute care, emergency departments, restorative care, assisted living and long-term care settings.” Newfoundland and Labrador has a high percentage of seniors, and that number is growing.
“Older adults visit emergency departments at a higher rate than non-seniors, have high use of prescription medications, and often suffer from complex social and physical challenges,” said Osborne. “These new centres of excellence in aging will lead to improved access to quality care for seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador. These centres of excellence will be connected to our family care teams in other hospitals as part of the continuum of care. We are establishing centres of excellence for seniors because it is common sense to do so to improve seniors’ care in this province. We’ve heard stories and anecdotes of experiences – often difficult experiences – seniors sometimes have in navigating emergency departments.” This will be beneficial for healthcare workers too. “The centres of excellence will exceed existing disability regulations and be environments offering more assistance to seniors,” said Osborne. “The new and expanded training programs will also support physicians to provide better care for all seniors and allow physicians to receive that training here, which helps with recruitment and retention of physicians.” Dr. Susan Mercer, Clinical Chief, Older Adult Care, NL Health Services – Eastern Zones, was equally as pleased with the announcement. “At NL Health Services, we are committed to delivering the highest quality care to all residents of our province and are pleased with the announcements today that support enhanced health care delivery for the older adult population,” said Mercer. “With a shortage of geriatricians across the country, a Geriatric Training Program at the Faculty of Medicine will allow us to train these specialists here in the province. Together with the expansion of the Care of the Elderly Training Program and establishing centres of excellence for senior care, we will be better positioned to provide high-quality care in both hospital and community-based settings for older adults with complex health issues.”

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