The Council on Aging of Ottawa recommends a significant increase in funding to Ontario’s Long-Term Care system as well as increased funding to address the many other significant gaps in health care that have been revealed during the pandemic. These areas include home care, public health, and hospital-based care.
At the root of the problem is the lack of a comprehensive provincial plan for seniors’ care now and for the future. Ontario needs to commit to funding essential health services to ensure quality care across the continuum of needs. It needs to support a health human resource strategy to ensure skilled staff are available to provide these services. The government knowingly allows inadequate care and long waiting lists to continue. This results in greater reliance on family caregiving to provide essential care and a huge accessibility issue for those who cannot afford private care and have no family support. The time to act is now.
Ontario’s Long-Term Care Staffing Plan 2021-2025 needs to be fast-tracked and the move to 4 hours/ resident/day needs to be in place within 2 years, not 4 years. The Council remains concerned that even the minimum of 4 hours/resident/day is an insufficient care standard and will need to be adjusted upwards as the complexity of care needs are revealed.
The minimum wage for essential PSWs needs to be increased to a fair wage with adequate benefits including paid sick leave and improved conditions of work. These improvements need to be applied to PSWs working in all settings – home and community care, LTC, and hospitals. This investment is sadly long overdue.
Now is the time to reimagine long-term care and change regulations and inspections to support person-centered care models in all LTC homes and creative community-based supportive housing and home care. A new building standard for the 21st century needs to be established and effective immediately, all 3 and 4-bed wards need to be abolished. At a minimum, new LTC homes need to have single rooms with adequate infection prevention and control provisions. We need to allow for a diversity of size and design in order to better integrate long-term care with other community and health supports.
The province needs to immediately invest in a health human resource strategy – training and retention of needed health care personnel particularly PSWs and nurses. The longer the province waits, the more dire the situation will be for those vulnerable citizens who need care in the community.
Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission keeps providing excellent recommendations and the province will need to respond to them as a matter of urgency and the budget should allocate the resources to respond rapidly.
Over time, improved housing, transportation, and urban planning are also needed to allow seniors to successfully “age in community” rather than in isolation.
We expect to see a significant investment in seniors care in the upcoming budget. COVID-19 exposed to the world the weakness of Ontario’s current system. Let’s not waste any more time. The government knows what to do.
President, Board of Directors