Sub­sidy for se­niors homes fall­ing short, ad­vo­cates ar­gue

Or­ga­ni­za­tion calls on prov­ince to en­sure con­struc­tion funds keep pace with in­fla­tion

Toronto Star - - GTA - PETER GOFFIN STAFF RE­PORTER

Al­most half of all long-term se­niors’ care homes in On­tario need to be re­built or ren­o­vated, but govern­ment sub­si­dies to help them do so are fall­ing short, says a new in­dus­try re­port.

The On­tario Long Term Care As­so­ci­a­tion (OLTCA) is call­ing for the prov­ince to abol­ish mu­nic­i­pal de­vel­op­ment fees for care homes and to en­sure that con­struc­tion sub­si­dies keep pace with in­fla­tion.

“We need to re­new 300-plus homes and the cur­rent pro­gram won’t get us there in en­tirety,” said Can­dace Chartier, head of the OLTCA, which rep­re­sents over two thirds of the pri­vate, pub­lic and non­profit care homes in On­tario.

On Mon­day, the or­ga­ni­za­tion re­leased Build­ing Bet­ter Long-Term Care: Pri­or­i­ties to Keep On­tario From Fail­ing Its Se­niors. Many of On­tario’s older care homes, built in the 1960s or ’70s, house res­i­dents in rooms with three or four beds, and have shared wash­rooms and two or three baths in one “tub room.”

Un­der the prov­ince’s new guide­lines, long-term care homes fea­ture fewer beds per room and wider hall­ways to ac­com­mo­date wheel­chairs.

In Fe­bru­ary 2015, the On­tario Min­istry of Health and Long-Term Care an­nounced that it would help ren­o­vate ap­prox­i­mately 300 of the 629 care homes in the prov­ince by 2025, to “bring them up to the high­est de­sign stan­dards.” Un­der 2014’s En­hanced Long-Term Care Re­newal Strat­egy, the Min­istry sub­si­dizes the con­struc­tion of new care homes and ren­o­va­tions of ex­ist­ing ones at a rate of $16.65 to $23.03 per bed, per day.

But, the OLTCA says, the govern­ment sub­sidy does not keep pace with in­fla­tion rates con­nected to the cost of con­struc­tion, mean­ing the cost of re­de­vel­op­ing care homes.

Taken with mu­nic­i­pal de­vel­op­ment fees — which can charge tens of thou­sands of dol­lars per bed for new con­struc­tions — re­new­ing long term care homes could be pro­hib­i­tively high for own­ers and op­er­a­tors.

Less than 20 per cent of On­tario’s care homes have ex­pressed a will­ing­ness to take on a con­struc­tion project, says the OLTCA re­port.

“When the sub­sidy was an­nounced in 2014 (it was) great,” Chartier said. “But what we’re say­ing is, re­visit it . . . It needs to grow in­cre­men­tally to ref­er­ence the growth in the cost of con­struc­tion.”

The Min­istry of Health and LongTerm Care said the re­de­vel­op­ment of long-term care homes is a “key pri­or­ity,” which is why it raised its con­struc­tion sub­sidy in 2014 and ex­tended care home li­cences by five years for homes that ren­o­vate.

“We made these changes af­ter con­sul­ta­tions with op­er­a­tors and we are ex­tremely proud and ex­cited to see the next 30,000 beds be­ing re-de­vel­oped,” said Shae Green­field, a spokesper­son from the min­is­ter’s of­fice.

As the li­cences to op­er­ate older homes near their ex­piry dates, own­ers will have to de­cide be­tween pay­ing to up­date the homes or get out of the busi­ness al­to­gether, Chartier said.

Res­i­dents will never have to go home­less, Chartier added. Rather, the govern­ment would likely launch a bid­ding process to find a new op­er­a­tor to take over the homes.

But the OLTCA and oth­ers say the bot­tom line is that se­niors should not have to wait a decade for the qual­ity of care homes — and their own qual­ity of life — to im­prove.

“From a res­i­dents’ per­spec­tive, we just need to be as­sured that the fund­ing, wher­ever it comes from, is in place so . . . that res­i­dents don’t feel like it won’t hap­pen in their life­time,” said Dee Lender, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Res­i­dents’ Councils.

There is an ur­gent need to im­prove older care homes now, Lender added, whose or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sents res­i­dent groups from every longterm care home in On­tario.

Chartier stressed the need for prepa­ra­tion as the Baby Boomer gen­er­a­tion be­gins to en­ter their 70s.

“The big­gest is­sue is, over the next 10 years, there’s go­ing to be twice as many se­niors in On­tario over the age of 75,” Chartier said.

“If we don’t im­prove things to­day, and we aren’t even think­ing about how to han­dle the needs of to­mor­row, then we’re go­ing to be in trou­ble.”

“From a res­i­dents’ per­spec­tive, we just need to be as­sured that the fund­ing, wher­ever it comes from, is in place.” DEE LENDER EX­EC­U­TIVE DIREC­TOR OF THE ON­TARIO AS­SO­CI­A­TION OF RES­I­DENTS’ COUNCILS

Ad­vo­cates are call­ing for the prov­ince to abol­ish mu­nic­i­pal de­vel­op­ment fees for care homes.

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