FREDERICTON (GNB) – Auditor general Paul Martin tabled a report today in the legislative assembly, highlighting concerns regarding the lack of pandemic planning and available expertise in nursing home infection prevention and control practices by the Department of Social Development.

Nursing homes provide care for one of New Brunswick’s most vulnerable populations. Ninety nursing home residents and one staff person lost their lives as a result of the pandemic (as of March 31, 2022).

“The department’s actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were delayed by the lack of pre-pandemic planning, dependence on other departments and limited enforcement,” said Martin. “Pre-existing issues played a critical role in the COVID-19 pandemic impact.”

The audit found instances of non-compliance with required nursing home staffing levels. Furthermore, findings indicate that several areas of non-compliance were noted during inspections; however, enforcement options were limited as the department lacked enforcement mechanisms.

“The department should work with nursing homes to address key inspection non-compliance areas, including staffing challenges and infection prevention and control,” said Martin.

The report also identified issues with pandemic preparedness. The department did not have an up-to-date pandemic plan before COVID-19 and did not provide financial resources to nursing homes to support the development of pandemic plans.

While the audit noted the department provided significant levels of support to nursing homes in response to the pandemic, there are some areas for future improvements.

The department continued annual inspections of nursing homes during the pandemic, but areas of non-compliance increased during that period.

“Twenty nursing homes reported staffing levels as strained or critical,” said Martin. “Seventy-three per cent of nursing homes in the province did not meet nursing home design standards. Nursing home risks remain unaddressed.”

Martin made eight recommendations to address these outstanding issues in his report, which is available online.