Not Much of A 'Revolution' For Long Term Care Home Residents



    TORONTO, March 25 /CNW/ - It will be one step forward and two steps back
for long term care residents in today's budget.
    Long term care homes were seeking over $500 million more a year in
operating funding in order to provide an acceptable and adequate level of care
for residents. Instead, the Ontario government has allocated just $107 million
over three years to hire 2,500 personal support workers and an unspecified
amount for 2,000 nurses.
    "Earmarking money for specific positions forces homes to hire when they
can't maintain the staff they already have. It becomes a shell game if homes
are laying off at the same time as they are hiring," said Donna Rubin, CEO of
the Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS).
    Today's announcement means that the level of care in these homes will
actually decline this year as inflation, wage adjustments and other operating
costs outstrip the dollars toward new hires. As the funding shortfalls
continue to mount, the situation will continue to deteriorate.
    "We're slipping backward, not moving forward, and that's bitterly
disappointing for the 76,000 long term care residents in this province who
were expecting more," said Rubin. "This is certainly not going to make Ontario
a leader in helping its most vulnerable citizens."
    In the not-for-profit sector, which includes municipal and charitable
long term care home and non-profit nursing homes, the supporting organizations
are doing everything they can to address the situation. Charitable foundations
and municipalities are topping up government funding by more than $150 million
a year to maintain a level of care that the province has been unable to
support.
    "But I don't know how long they can continue to make up the shortfall,"
Rubin warned.
    The budget also includes $278 million for 'various programs'. "This
sounds like a big figure, but this funding will not flow directly to resident
care," said Rubin.
    In December last year, OANHSS sent an open letter to George Smitherman,
Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, in which it identified what it
believes are the most important objectives to be achieved over the next four
years. It said it would measure the government's progress by these benchmarks.
(See attached letter.)
    Based on today's budget, OANHSS members will be disillusioned about this
government's real commitment to long term care. The lack of adequate funding
means that Ontario will continue to lag behind other progressive jurisdictions
in the level of care provided to those living in long term care homes.
    OANHSS acknowledges some positives in this budget for not-for-profit long
term care, including a review of the property tax treatment of homes
established under the Charitable Institutions Act. The Association was also
pleased to see the broadening of the OSIFA infrastructure loan program to
include social housing, the re-confirmation of the Aging At Home Strategy,
funding to support the capital re-development of B and C homes, and the
2 per cent increase to the comfort allowance for long term care home
residents.

    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.


    December 4, 2007

    OPEN LETTER TO GEORGE SMITHERMAN:
    LONG TERM CARE OBJECTIVES FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS

    Hon. George Smitherman
    Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
    80 Grosvenor Street
    10th Floor, Hepburn Block
    Toronto, Ontario
    M7A 2C4

    Dear Minister Smitherman:

    On behalf of OANHSS and its members that operate more than 27,000 long
term care beds and 5,000 seniors' housing units across the province,
congratulations and best wishes on your reappointment as Minister of Health
and Long-Term Care. We look forward to continuing to work with you in order to
improve the care and quality of life of Ontario's frail elderly.
    In this open letter, we identify what we believe are the most important
objectives to be achieved over the next four years. We recognize that
adjustments may have to be made in response to unforeseen circumstances, but
generally these are the benchmarks by which we will measure progress in our
sector during your government's second mandate.
    We trust that your Ministry will remain focused on these objectives as it
develops funding and policy positions. For our part, we are ready to implement
the needed programs and services.

    Minimum Level of Care

    OANHSS wants to see the level of care increased to an average of three
hours per resident per day - whether or not a specific care standard is
mandated in legislation. By achieving such a benchmark, Ontario will be
catching up to other progressive jurisdictions in the level of care provided
to those living in long term care homes.

    Mental Health

    As reported recently in the media, instances of violence and abuse are on
the rise because of the changing needs of the residents. Today, they are older
and require more complex care than even a decade ago. Today, 68 per cent of
residents suffer from dementia or some other form of cognitive impairment. Yet
funding and staffing have not kept pace with these demands. The homes are
finding it increasingly difficult to cope, especially with volatile and
aggressive behaviour for which they are not adequately trained or resourced.
    We need a system-wide, comprehensive strategy to address this growing
problem. Currently, there are few alternate care locations where potentially
violent residents can be transferred. We need specialized units that can care
for those with aggressive behaviours so that other residents and staff in our
homes can live and work in a safe environment.
    In addition, work needs to begin to address other special populations
such as those with developmental disabilities and those with acquired brain
injury (ABI), Huntington's disease and substance abuse issues.

    Aging in Place

    Continuums of care, or campus-like settings that include housing for
seniors in addition to a long term care home were developed with the
encouragement of government, to allow seniors to "age in place" or move to a
higher level of care as their needs require.
    But sadly, this is not always the case under current rules and some are
forced to relocate to another long term care home away from their friends and
even their spouses.
    The province must address this issue in regulations under the new
Long-Term Care Act. Specifically, we are requesting higher priority ranking
for long term care applicants who currently reside on the same campus as the
home.

    New Regulatory Framework

    We are committed to working with the government and your Ministry to
develop the regulations to accompany the Long-Term Care Homes Act. We
certainly support all efforts to enhance standards and ensure full
accountability for the sector, but this should not become such a 'paper
burden' that it has a negative impact on the amount of staff time available
for resident care.

    Support for Not-for-Profit Providers

    Not-for-profit providers have a long history of bringing added value to
long term care and community services in Ontario. Yet there has been a
noticeable erosion of our sector over the last few years, and we will be
looking for concrete action on your government's stated support for
not-for-profit delivery.
    For example, charitable homes that have typically not paid property tax
are starting to attract tax as they have redeveloped. We are seeking an
amendment to the Assessment Act to exempt all not-for-profit homes from paying
property tax, and we would appreciate your support in this effort.
    Capital renewal is another area where we see an immediate need for
special consideration and assistance to support not-for-profits looking to
rebuild under the B & C program and we appreciate your government's
acknowledgement of this need in the program design.
    Much has been accomplished over the past four years, and there is much
still to do. If we can make meaningful progress on this proposed agenda, we're
certain that together we can achieve significant gains for the 78,000
residents in long term care over the next four years.

    Sincerely,

    Donna A. Rubin
    Chief Executive Officer





For further information:

For further information: Debbie Humphreys, OANHSS, (416) 553-7401
(cell); Robert Stephens, PR POST, (416) 777-0368

Organization Profile

Ontario Association of Non-Profit Homes and Services for Seniors (OANHSS)

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ONTARIO BUDGET REACTION 2008

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