TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Jan. 18, 2013) - "While talking a good line" on providing care for Ontario's legion of growing seniors, Ontario's health minister "continues to short-change health care access for older Ontarians and fudge the facts of her government's go-forward plan to replace universal and comprehensive hospital services and long-term care with limited home care supports," charges Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario president Fred Hahn in response to a series of recent Liberal government announcements.
"Platitudes from the health minister and a couple of hours a week of home care aren't going to provide a senior with multiple chronic conditions and little mobility with the 24-hour care and the quality of life they deserve," says Hahn.
Last month's Ontario auditor's report tells the real story about seniors' care. He found that 15 per cent of the nearly 20,000 people waiting for a long-term care (LTC) bed die while on the wait list for a bed. According to the auditor, since 2004/05 the number of people waiting for a bed has increased 85 per cent, despite stricter eligibility requirements coming into force in 2010. Over the same period the number of LTC beds in Ontario has increased by just 3 per cent.
Another 10,000 Ontarians are waiting for care at home. But funding for home care - home support and nursing - are set at levels "far too low to meet the existing waiting lists and new need from hospital offloading of more complex patients," says Michael Hurley, the president of CUPE's Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU). Already Ontario has among the lowest per person health care funding in Canada. Over the next few years when Ontario's population is ageing at unprecedented rate, the Liberals intend to cut billions of dollars more from health services.
What's clear, Hurley says, is that hospital beds providing services to seniors in hospital are aggressively being cut across Ontario. Also being cut, are in-hospital physiotherapy and speech therapy programs, many serving seniors, which are being privatized in the community. "We also have a means-tested drug plan for seniors coming. It begs the question what have Ontario seniors done to earn the wrath of the Ontario government?" Asks Hurley.
As part of a "new" seniors' health strategy, the government is looking at means-tested co-payments for the provision of home care and community support services.
Hahn says that "there appears a willful blindness on the part of the health minister, her government and those charged with developing a plan for seniors' care, that verges on disrespect for the people who have built this province. What would be genuine and respectful is, the new Liberal premier stopping the billions of dollars in health service cost-cutting at the expense of care for seniors."