Ontario’s long term care system – demand far outstrips supply

The Ontario Health Quality Council’s annual report, released today, sheds light on the stark reality in the province’s long term care system – demand far outstrips supply.

"There are about 76,000 long term care beds in homes across the province, which are 98 per cent full, and there is a waitlist of over 25,000 people. It’s not hard to see that this is creating backlogs in patient flow across the health care system," said Donna Rubin, CEO of the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS).

In an analysis of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s waitlist data, OANHSS calculates that the greatest demand exists in the not-for-profit sector. Not-for-profits account for just over 40 per cent of all homes in the province and less than one half of all beds, but they are the number one preference of two thirds of individuals on the total provincial waitlist.

"As the OHQC’s report points out, not everyone on the waitlist is in need of the more complex care offered in homes and we have strongly supported government initiatives such as the Aging at Home Strategy that offer options to help seniors live independently in the community. There are, however, a growing number of people who do require that level of support and the system simply does not have the capacity to respond and alleviate the pressures hospitals are facing with alternate level of care or ALC patients," added Rubin.

The long term care homes sector is ready and willing to work with the Ontario government and the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINS) on strategies to enable homes to admit more residents with more complex care needs but OANHSS has been signalling for some time that the sector cannot perform this role without additional staffing and resources.

"While we recognize the tough fiscal situation the government faces, homes are already having serious difficulty meeting the most basic care needs of existing residents while at the same time trying to effectively deal with very complex situations such as mental health issues and aggressive behaviours. What we need is comprehensive planning to put homes in a position to contribute to an ALC solution, not short-term fixes," said Rubin.

Adding significantly to this challenge is the cost for homes to meet the new requirements in the Long Term Care Homes Act, which comes into force on July 1. Without additional funding, homes will have no option but to reduce current care and service levels to meet these new demands.

OANHSS is also looking for fulfillment of the promise made by the McGuinty government for additional nursing and personal support worker staff in its 2008-09 Budget.

OANHSS is the provincial association representing not-for-profit providers of long term care, services and housing for seniors. Members include municipal and charitable long term care homes, non-profit nursing homes, seniors’ housing projects and community service agencies. Member organizations operate over 27,000 long term care beds and over 5,000 seniors’ housing units across the province.

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