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Kingston city council calls for halt to long-term care cuts

Posted: February 6, 2020

(February 5, 2020)

By: Elliot Ferguson, The Kingston Whig-Standard

KINGSTON — The city joined a growing chorus of municipalities calling on the Ontario government to reverse planned cuts to funding for long-term care facilities.

Councillors voted Tuesday night to reverse planned funding cuts to long-term care in order to maintain service levels and stem rising violence within facilities.

The motion from Kingscourt-Rideau District Coun. Mary Rita Holland cited concern about the planned cancellation of two provincial funding sources for long-term care — the high wage transition fund and the structural compliance fund — and limited budget increases of only one per cent annually.

“It’s a service that many of us rely on,” Holland said. “The needs are quite clear.”

The cancellation of the two funds, expected to take effect at the end of March and at the end of 2020, add up to a loss of almost $225,000 a year at Rideaucrest Home, Holland added.

While Holland’s motion specifically mentioned Rideaucrest, the city’s chief administrative officer, Lanie Hurdle, noted the 128-bed Fairmount Home on Battersea Road faces similar funding reductions.

The city provides almost $3.2 million to the cost of Fairmount Home, more than 20 per cent of the facility’s nearly $15 million annual budget.

According to county staff, they expect Fairmount Home to lose about $165,000 from the cancellation of the two funds.

The provincial funding cuts would impact service, Hurdle said, unless municipal tax dollars are used to make up the difference, which, in turn, would increase taxes.

For advocates of the local health-care system, reducing services is not an option.

“The state of long-term care affects the conditions of life for thousands of your constituents,” said Matthew Gventer of the Kingston Health Coalition, who spoke to council in support of the motion Tuesday night.

Gventer said research has shown residents need four hours of personal care each day to be adequately tended to.

Gventer said personal care levels on average amount to about 2.8 hours per day.

“There is a big gap there between where we are now and what you think we ought to be,” Sydenham District Coun. Peter Stroud, who seconded Holland’s motion, said.

“Families, staff and residents are suffering,” Gventer added.

While he has supported funding for services for seniors in the past, Loyalist-Cataraqui District Coun. Simon Chapelle said he was hesitant for city council to get involved in a provincial policy debate.

Chapelle suggested council’s concerns would be better voiced by the city’s members of Provincial Parliament.

But going through the two opposition MPPs who represent Kingston would not be enough for many councillors.

“This is a municipal issue,” Williamsville District Coun. Jim Neill said. “There will be an impact on the services we provide to the most vulnerable.”

“Sometimes we have to advocate on their behalf,” Lakeside District Coun. Wayne Hill added.

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