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Provincial candidates should push for growing health-care services in burgeoning Durham: regional chair

Posted: May 6, 2022

(May 5, 2022)

By: Reka Szekely, Welland Tribune

Every candidate running in the provincial election in Durham should work to understand the region’s health-care challenges, says Regional Chair John Henry.

Henry said massive growth in the area, with the population expected to double by 2051, means that health-care services must continue to grow.

“When you double your population, you need to think about the infrastructure that is needed to meet that increase in population and that’s health care, long-term care, there’s a number of moving pieces that have to be addressed.”

A good news story for Durham was the rapid 13-month construction of a new long-term-care home in Ajax, adjacent to the Ajax-Pickering hospital, that added 320 beds to a region with some of the longest long-term-care wait-lists in Ontario.

“I was very proud to be there, and from start to finish, it was about 18 month. So that modular construction allows us to move faster and Ajax is the first example of that, so we know that we can do this.”

Henry pointed out the province is also set to fund a 200-bed region-operated facility in north Pickering in the Seaton community and has awarded additional beds to privately owned long-term-care companies as well.

“The challenge you have going forward is if your population increases at the rate it does, we need to play catch up and then meet those future needs.”

As of March 2022, there were 12,000 people on the wait-list for long-term care in the Central East area of Ontario, which includes all Durham homes as well as homes in Scarborough, Northumberland, Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

Regionally owned facilities had some of the longest wait-lists, with more than 1,000 people waiting for a spot at Fairview Lodge in Whitby and 860 people on the list at Hillsdale Estates in Oshawa.

Another major health-care priority for Durham is the advancement of a new hospital. Lakeridge Health recently determined that Durham’s next hospital should be located in Whitby and Henry estimates it will be roughly a decade before that facility is built, if the province advances the project.

“I’m expecting that project will move ahead and hopefully see it completed; I think 10 years would be fast, there’s a lot of things that need to be done.”

The regional chair said he’s hoping that election candidates understand health care is a regionwide issue and that they advocate for the whole region.

“Durham region has seven ridings people are running for, it’s important that those candidates running understand the complexities of the challenges that we’re having across Durham Region … I would expect all candidates would tour their communities to understand the needs for mental and addiction and homelessness (services).”

Lance Livingstone is the co-chair of the Durham Chapter of the Ontario Healthcare Coalition.

He said his organization will be lobbying for a public health-care system through the provincial election.

“We don’t want private hospitals,” said Livingstone. “You know what health care is like in the United States … people with money say I’ll pay this extra, let me in first. We don’t want that. We need to make sure it’s by need, doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich.”

That extends to the issue of long-term care where Livingstone’s organization is one of the organizations lobbying to make all long-term-care homes non-profit.

“We do not want more private long-term care,” he said, adding that he wants dollars spent on long-term care to be used for care. “The non-profit ones are not out to make a profit for shareholders.”

Livingstone said he believes non-profit long-term-care homes performed better during the COVID-19 pandemic because they weren’t worried about making a profit.

Though some members of the Durham Chapter of the health coalition have campaigned for NDP candidates, Livingstone said as a group the Durham health coalition is non-partisan and is planning on organizing a health-care focused debate during the election.

Link to the original article