TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - April 18, 2017) - Today, the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) is warning against a loophole within Ontario's new health care legislation, the Patients First Act, which opens the door to increased private, for-profit delivery of health care services.
OCSA represents over 250 not-for-profit organizations who deliver community support services that help seniors and people with disabilities live independently in their own homes and communities for as long as possible, including Meals on Wheels, adult day programs, hospice care, seniors transportation, respite, and attendant care. These organizations receive partial government funding through contracts with the province's 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). Currently, such contracts may only be awarded to not-for-profit organizations.
When the LHINs absorb the Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) this spring, however, the new legislation as written allows for LHINs to contract with for-profit companies to deliver community support services. When OCSA pointed out this loophole to the government during the bill's consultation process, they committed to closing it with a regulatory amendment maintaining the existing not-for-profit requirement. This amendment appeared in a list of proposed regulations released for comment in February. However, last week OCSA was informed that the entire amendment had been dropped by Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins, and would instead be replaced by weaker policy guidelines, which can be easily overturned.
With health funding already stretched to its limits, it is unacceptable for dollars to end up as part of a company's profit margin when they could be re-invested in client care. Additionally, volunteers for not-for-profit providers donate over 3.5 million hours of service each year, a potential loss of up to $85 million if replaced by paid work. Most importantly, history in other sectors shows that for-profit provision of service often leads to a decrease in quality, and an increase in risks to clients.
"The Patients First Act was intended to reduce costs and improve the experiences of clients in the health care system, but this loophole does the opposite," says Deborah Simon, OCSA CEO.
Ontario's not-for-profit community support service providers are already struggling under a base funding freeze. With government funding falling well behind even the rate of inflation, many are being forced to increase client fees, reduce services, or create waitlists. This sudden about-face compounds their concern.
"This government often talks about the importance of home and community care, but their recent actions don't correspond with those values," says Simon. "I urge the province to take immediate action to protect not-for-profit health care delivery in Ontario, now and into the future."
Across the province each year, over one million people receive home care and community support services -- and the need is growing. The Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) champions a strong, sustainable home and community support sector for all Ontarians. Our not-for-profit, community-based member organizations provide a wide variety of health and wellness services which help a full range of clients, including seniors and people with disabilities, remain independent in their own homes and communities. These compassionate and cost-effective services improve quality of life and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations, emergency room visits and premature institutionalization. They are the key to a sustainable health care system for Ontario. For more information, visit www.ocsa.on.ca.