10/26/2017 12:31 EDT | Updated 10/29/2017 08:22 EDT

Nova Scotia's long-term care system is working despite abuse, minister says

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's health minister says any form of abuse at long term care homes is "unacceptable," but he believes the system meant to protect residents is working.

Randy Delorey reacted on Thursday to a media report uncovering 46 confirmed cases of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at long term care facilities in the province over a two year period.

Delorey says those cases are a concern, but they are the "exceptions" and do not represent standard practice.

"The rules are clear that this not acceptable," Delorey told reporters.

He said the numbers contained in the CBC report are in line with departmental data compiled over the last couple of years.

The report found at least half of the cases in 2015 and 2016 involved abuse by home staff members, including one case of sexual abuse, and the inappropriate drugging of residents at the Glen Haven Manor in New Glasgow in 2015, in order to make them compliant.

Delorey said he is confident the system is working because of legislation that protects people in care and an investigative regime that can respond as warranted.

"Certainly it's concerning any time abuse takes place," he said. "Corrective action is taken which can be from . . .  directives to the facility and to professional bodies, as well as when warranted, a criminal investigation."

Delorey said he couldn't say how many employees if any had been fired as a result of the incidents.

The media report said that under the Protection for Persons in Care Act, 800 complaints had been reported over a four-year period with only 20 per cent resulting in investigations.

The issue was later brought up in the legislature by NDP Leader Gary Burrill who asked whether understaffing at long term care facilities had led to the cases of neglect. He pointed out that $8 million had been removed in the previous two years from nursing homes, while only $3.2 million had been restored in the latest provincial budget.

"The reset provided by the government's election was a perfect moment to have restored all of the money that had been taken away over the last two years. I would like to ask the premier if he will restore in his next budget all the nursing home funding that's been taken away since he came to office?"

McNeil said government departments are currently gearing up to build next spring's budget.

"The question the member asks I'm sure will be brought in by the (health) department and like all issues will be given consideration," said McNeil.