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Health Coalition raises Ontario’s long-term care issues in Orangeville

Posted: June 21, 2016

(June 21, 2016)

Author: James Matthews, Orangeville Banner

There’s a glaring need for minimum care standards at long-term care facilities, according to the Ontario Health Coalition.

The coalition situated a 10-foot tall wooden rocking chair on Orangeville’s Broadway near Blind Line on Saturday (June 18). It was part of a 19-town tour designed to increase awareness about the need to improve care standards at Ontario’s long-term care facilities. Indeed, the chair itself was a metaphor for good old fashioned attentive care.

Peter Boyle, a volunteer with the coalition’s tour, said the effort brings attention to the need to address long wait-times and poor access to care.

Boyle said there are about 80,000 long-term care beds in Ontario. There’s as many as 20,000 people on waiting lists for one of those beds. And, Boyle said, that’s just to get into a facility that won’t necessarily be in the patient’s home community. That would mean the patient’s family members would need to travel to another community and, as family members are crucial to the current care levels, that would leave patients in greater need.

He said the 20,000-patient wait list is an historic number that’s likely changed in the years since it was first tallied. Yet beds are cut every year at facilities and hospitals throughout the province, he said.

Affordability is also an issue, and that’s reflected in the need to protect public non-profit health care against growing privatization within the sector.

“The acuity of care that’s needed is more than it was 15 years ago,” Boyle said.

Care needs grow each year. Hospital cuts mean patients with complex medical needs are off-loaded into long-term care homes that are already ill equipped to meet patients’ needs. Complex patients with dementia and other behavioral issues are turned over from hospitals to long-term care homes. But, he said, care levels have not increased to meet those heavier and more complex patient needs.

Boyle said one of the trusses of the coalition’s campaign is a minimum standard of four hours of hands-on care, or “touch-time”, in every 24-hour period for patients.

Long-term care centres are caring mainly for members of the war generation, Boyle said. And that population will intensify in an ageing population.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg with what’s coming,” he said.

It’s paramount to address the health-care shortfalls now in anticipation of meeting Baby Boomer needs.

There are legislated standards of care for schools and day care centres, he said. But such regulations for long-term care facilities don’t exist.

“They have them (regulations) for everything else,” Boyle said. “When it comes to the elderly, they’re forgotten.”

Tom Caruthers, another coalition volunteer, said nursing staff at many long-term care facilities are saddled with duties that cause the important work of caring to be minimized. Current facility staff can only do so much in the hours they have.

“Paper work is not care time,” said Caruthers. “It’s bureaucracy time.”

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