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Province cuts 2 funds for long-term care homes

Posted: July 25, 2019

‘No specific concerns’ about funding loss in North Bay, says Coun. Chris Mayne

PJ Wilson | Published on: July 24, 2019 | Last Updated: July 24, 2019 10:07 AM EDT

Cassellholme Home for the Aged Nugget File Photo PICASA / JPG, NB

There are “no specific concerns” about the effect of provincial funding cuts on Cassellholme at this time, according to the chairman of the Cassellholme board of directors.

North Bay Coun. Chris Mayne said fears raised by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson on the effects of the cuts in his city are not on the radar in North Bay.

“Right now . . . everyone is excited about the opportunities with redevelopment” of Cassellholme announced last month by Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli.

In late June, Fedeli announced a $55.5-million commitment by the province to redevelop the 238-bed facility, including the addition of 24 long-term care beds, which includes a 16-bed Indigenous unit and eight new beds for specialized dementia care.

The local development was part of a $1.75-billion commitment from the province to build 15,000 long-term care beds over the next five years.

The redevelopment is expected to cost about $64 million. Drawings are being completed and the project will be tendered in late November. The contract will be awarded a month or two later with construction starting in April or May of 2020.

Watson said the provincial funding cuts, which will take effect Aug. 1, will leave the city’s four municipal long-term care homes with a $500,000 deficit this year, climbing to more than $1 million by 2020.

But Mayne said over the past five years, the Cassellholme budget has been held at a zero per cent increase, and although it had been looking at a two per cent hike this year, was able to hold the budget at zero per cent again this year.

In Ottawa, the city faces “the choice of having to cut services or else transfer the cost to municipal taxpayers,” Watson said in a letter to Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton.

The Doug Ford Progressive Conservative government announced in the spring budget that it would end two funding streams for long-term care. The funding cuts, Watson said, will have a significant impact on Ottawa’s municipal long-term care homes.

The province told municipalities the changes were being made to maximize administrative savings, modernize services and eliminate duplication.

The two programs being eliminated were initially designed to help older long-term care homes cope with higher staff wages and structural issues, but Watson said the money had been required to directly fund operations in the homes.

“Therefore, eliminating these two funding streams will have a serious impact on the direct care and services provided to residents.”

Watson says new beds can’t be created “at the risk of decreasing current levels of services in existing homes, including services for the 717 residents who depend on the City of Ottawa homes for their care.”

Ottawa is not the only municipality concerned about the end of two funding programs that helped support municipal long-term care homes. Watson wants the province to either reverse the program cuts or add the funding to per-diem amounts that allow long-term care homes to operate.

The Ontario Health Coalition says municipalities will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding with the cuts, adding more pressure to an already stressed system.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, says city-run long-term care homes across the province are facing deficits.

“Some of the homes are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because of this.”

Mehra noted that municipalities were already facing increased costs because of provincial cuts to paramedic and public health services. Cuts to long-term care represent another financial burden, she said.

Mehra said the program cuts came on top of budgets that were not keeping up with inflation and growing staff shortages.

“Long-term care funding is not adequate to meet existing needs.”

Staffing shortages contribute to high levels of violence in long-term care homes, Mehra said, because staff is unable to deal with residents with increasingly acute needs, including behavioural issues and dementia.

Adam Cotter, spokesperson for Fullerton, said in a statement that funding models developed 10 years ago “aren’t adequately meeting the changing needs of Ontario’s long-term care homes.

“As our government invests $72 million more this year in long-term care homes, we are working with our partners in the sector to help ensure that they can realize the maximum value of this funding. That means cutting red tape where responsible and offering homes more flexibility to allocate their funding to priority areas.”

The changes, he said, will help long-term care homes be “more responsive” to their residents’ needs.

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