Ontario two years behind goal of 15,000 new LTC beds by 2024, fiscal watchdog says

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TORONTO — Ontario will not meet its goal of creating 15,000 new long-term care beds by 2024, the province's fiscal watchdog said in a new report released Wednesday.

The Financial Accountability Office also said that the 30,000 new beds the province has promised to add over 10 years won't be enough to meet the demands of a growing and aging population.

"The FAO estimates that only 8,251 new long-term care beds will be in service by the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year," the report said.

"This is well short of the province's previous commitment to add 15,000 new long-term care beds by 2023-24."

There are about 78,000 long-term care beds in the province at the moment.

The FAO projects the province will not reach 15,000 beds until the 2025-26 fiscal year.

The vast majority of residents currently in long-term care - about 80 per cent - are aged 75 and older, the report noted.

"Looking ahead, the FAO projects that the number of Ontarians aged 75 and over will increase by 52 per cent from 2018-19 to 2029-30 while the number of long-term care beds will increase by 38 per cent," the report said.

"This indicates that the province's plan to add 30,000 beds by 2028-29 will likely not be sufficient to keep pace with the growing demand for long-term care from Ontario’s growing and aging population."

There are more than 31,000 beds in the system that are not built to modern standards. They are built to 1972 standards - with three to four beds per room and no washrooms in all rooms.

The province has allocated nearly 16,000 of those beds for redevelopment, leaving the remainder with no redevelopment plans, the FAO said.

The watchdog also identified several risks that could derail the goal to reach 108,000 beds by the end of the decade.

That includes construction delays and non renewal of existing beds.

There are also 7,400 beds in older homes that were taken out of service during the pandemic to help mitigate the risks of COVID-19 spreading, the FAO noted.

"Ongoing infection prevention and control measures could mean that many of these beds will continue to be unavailable and some beds may be prevented from reopening entirely," the report said.

Last November, the government promised to establish a new standard that would see nursing home residents receive an average of four hours of direct care every day.

The FAO said the province will need to hire 17,000 personal support workers and more than 12,000 nurses to fulfil that promise.

Premier Doug Ford has pledged to achieve the standard by 2024-25 and said the province will need to hire "tens of thousands" more personal support workers, registered practical nurses and registered nurses to provide the care.

The province committed to hiring more than 27,000 nurses and personal support workers in the 2021 budget.

The FAO noted this hiring binge will go directly toward achieving the goal of providing four hours of care per day and does not address how many health-care workers are needed for the new beds.

"In total, the FAO estimates that over 37,000 nurses and personal support workers will need to be hired by 2024-25 to support both the increase in the supply of new long-term care beds and the increase in daily direct care hours," the report said.

The watchdog projects spending on long-term care will increase to $10.6 billion per year by 2030, up from $4.4 billion per year in 2019-20.

The new report is based on the province's 2021-22 expenditure estimates.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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