SUDBURY, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 25, 2014) - The province's near 20-year fixation with cuts to Ontario hospitals including the closure of 19,000 beds and decreased access to in hospital restorative convalescent care, is resulting in human tragedies on a grand scale, with many patients, foremost the elderly pushed out hospitals while acutely ill with little access to care at home, a report released today in Sudbury has found.
The report, Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home: After Twenty Years of Budget Cuts, Ontario's Health System is Failing Patients found it is the elderly and those in smaller communities who are being hurt most by hospital downsizing. Making the situation worse is the under-resourcing of care at home under an "outpatient" community care model that the report shows, is failing miserably.
Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home chronicles the personal stories of hundreds of patients on 1-800 patient hotline set up for over a year by the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) the hospital division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
"Many of the patient experiences are heart-breaking," says OCHU president Michael Hurley. "It is the frail, ill, mostly elderly patients who have borne the brunt of the cuts to the hospital system. They have been pushed out of hospital while acutely ill and have been abandoned at home. Some have died as a result. Elderly spouses and adult children have exhausted themselves trying to provide basic care. This report exposes the discrimination against the elderly in Ontario's health care system."
The majority of hotline calls came from Ontarians whose loved ones were prematurely discharged from hospital including a mother desperate for care at her local hospital for her extremely ill son diagnosed with lymphoma and a family coping with the aftermath of their grandmother's deteriorating health following her repeatedly being discharged from hospital while acutely ill.
These personal stories are validated by the health ministry's own data showing that 1 in 6 Ontario patients are readmitted to hospital within 30 days of being discharged. There are over 10,000 and 35,000, mostly frail and elderly people, on wait-lists for home care and a bed in a nursing home, respectively. National data shows that Ontario patients receive 6.1 hours less nursing care than patients in other provinces.
"With the fewest hospital beds to population of any province, Ontario cannot continue to cut beds. These cuts restrict access and the rationing that follows impacts the elderly foremost," says Hurley.
A key finding of the report is that since moving to this outpatient community care model, most therapy services, including speech language pathology services, have seen decreases in referral rates through Ontario's Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), which leads to individuals not receiving the timely care they need. In 2012-2013 speech language pathology services amounted to just .7 per cent of all home care visits through CCACs. Due to hospital funding cuts, waiting periods to access some, in-hospital services, range from two to ten months.
"What we heard is this: If you have dementia; if you've suffered a severe stroke; if you have Parkinson's disease; or if you have any kind of swallowing issue, chances are good that you are not going to get the appropriate care in a timely fashion," says OSLA's Mary Cook.
Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home posits solutions that encourage the provincial government to make alternative policy choices. These include the following:
- Chronic and alternative level of care beds must be reopened to give the frail and elderly the in-hospital restorative, convalescent care and therapies they require.
- Funds must be reinvested in hospitals so that critical speech-language pathology services can be provided and delivered in a timely fashion.
- No rationing of care and therapies. Give those who need home care, therapies and services, the care hours they need, without being charged user fees.