Advocates call for swifter action on long-term care improvements

·3 min read

The Nov. 5 provincial budget lays out plans to provide more support for long-term care and ageing in place, but local advocacy groups say it is not enough.

The provincial government announced Nov. 2 it would increase average daily direct care per longterm care resident to four hours a day, phasing it over a four-year period. That is in addition to a previously announced $1.75 billion to increase long-term care capacity by 30,000 beds. The budget also includes a new 25 per cent tax credit for 2021 for eligible home renovations, up to $10,000, to improve safety for seniors and keep them at home.

Haliburton-CKL Long-Term Care Coalition member Bonnie Roe said their group and other advocates were excited by the prospect of increased hours of care. But she said the target date for the changes is not acceptable.

“It sounds wonderful, but the changes need to be happening now,” Roe said. “There should have been details within the budget that would speak to starting to implement a plan.”

A provincial press release notes improving care hours is an ambitious plan that will “require significant changes in the long-term care sector” including tens of thousands of new staff, but does not specify dollar figures for that.

“Protecting people has been our government’s number one priority,” said Minister of Finance Rod Phillips. “We are making available every necessary resource to keep people safe, including our loved ones in long-term care and our frontline health care heroes during the second wave and beyond.”

The provincial long-term care commission included more care hours in its interim recommendations, announced Oct. 23. Roe said the budget should have offered more funding to address other recommendations, which also include a comprehensive HR strategy to address sector staffing issues.

Tax credit available

The home renovation tax credit is regardless of income and allows families who have a senior living with them to apply as well.

Roe said ageing in place is important, but a tax credit only goes so far.

“A lot of seniors are on the poverty line. So, I think that works for those who can afford to do that,” she said. “The amount is weak.”

Senior-advocacy organization CARP praised the credit but said it is not enough to keep most people at home. The organization also criticized the budget’s long-term care implementation and called for more short-term tangible actions, such as installing cameras in medication rooms.

“While there is a marked increase in health care investment and a promise to improve long-term care over the next few years, CARP worries that the immediate needs of older adults were pushed to the background,” the organization said in a press release.

Roe said the province could implement significant changes sooner but it lacks the political will.

“It just sounds very hollow,” Roe said. “Considering the state of our long-term health care system.”

Joseph Quigley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Highlander