Organizations that service community health-care needs say they’re disappointed last week’s Ontario budget emphasized long-term care investments, and didn’t promise more funding for groups that help seniors remain at home.
“We have been working tirelessly over this last year supporting people to stay safe in their homes, and this has had a huge impact on our staffing, on our capacity to deliver,” said Deborah Simon, CEO of the Ontario Community Support Association. “We fully expected government to shore up some investments for us this year, and we didn’t see it.”
I wish people were more informed about the importance of home care– Lois Frazier-Blakeney, former nursing home resident
Lois Frazier-Blakeney, 85, knows what it’s like to live in a nursing home. After a serious accident, she was in long-term care for five years.
She says she eventually moved out of the facility and into an apartment, and a personal support worker (PSW) now visits four days a week to help her exercise and shower.
“I wish people were more informed about the importance of home care, what it means to the individual they’re helping, what it means to society in general, because if they didn’t have PSWs doing the work, who would do it?” said Frazier-Blakeney. “No one wants to go to long-term care if they can avoid it. No one.”
Carefor, a non-profit organization that provides medical transportation, Meals on Wheels, and home care across eastern Ontario, can’t keep up with the demand for services, according to CEO Steve Perry.
“It’s a daily occurrence where we’re not able to meet needs, acceptance rates are declining significantly, particularly in the home-care sector. They’re at critical levels…There’s just not the human capital to do it.”
Carefor employs 1,500 people and has between 700 and 900 volunteers, but Perry says they could hire at least 300 more support workers if they could find people to fill the jobs.
He’s disappointed the province’s focus is on long-term care.
“There needs to be a fundamental strategy that looks at the health-care system as a whole, not just sector by sector,” he said.
$2.8B to home care in 2019-20
In its recent budget submission, the Ontario Community Support Association had asked the government for an increase in the base rate for “not-for-profit community support providers and home-care providers across the province, parity in salaries for our front-line staff.”
On Wednesday, the provincial budget detailed accelerated plans to build new spaces in long-term care, with the hope of adding more than 20,000 beds in four years. The budget earmarks an additional $933 million over four years to fulfil its previously announced promise of providing four hours of direct care every day to residents of long-term care.
Additionally, the province will offer a sort of signing bonus for PSWs and nurses in retirement homes.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care told CBC in February it provided about $2.88 billion in funding to home care in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
But according to Simon, taking the services into the home is much cheaper than institutional care.
“The cost of home care is a little over $100 a day,” he said. “To stay in a long-term care bed is a little over $200 a day and hospital beds are anywhere from $700 to $1,000 a day. So the kinds of supports that we can give in home and community care really meet the needs of Ontarians.”