National Post (Latest Edition)

Ontario homecare providers push for expanded services to fight virus

- Shawn Jeffords

TORONTO • Four major homecare providers are asking the Ontario government to increase support for their sector, saying it would reduce pressure on a healthcare system burdened by COVID-19.

The companies — Bayshore Healthcare, Closing the Gap Healthcare, VON Canada, and SE Health — say bolstering home care will allow long- term care homes and hospitals to operate more efficientl­y.

The group has launched a campaign — dubbed Bring Health Home — Thursday on their call for support.

The CEO of Closing the Gap Healthcare says COVID- 19 transmissi­on rates in homecare settings are much lower than in congregate care.

Leighton Mcdonald says by focusing on community- care, the province can help keep more people safe from the virus.

According to provincial data through the height of the first wave of COVID-19 until the end of May, there were 235 virus cases related to home care, compared to 4,518 in long- term care homes.

“What didn’t happen early in the pandemic was home care wasn’t seen as a as a critical alternativ­e to much of the institutio­nal care,” McDonald said.

“Had that happened, we would have seen many more people cared for outside of settings that could have been potentiall­y hazardous.”

Mcdonald said the coalition is hoping to build public support for increased wages and stability for workers in the homecare sector, who he said are often paid less than their colleagues in hospitals and long-term care.

“We’d like to see more people on full time salaries, and have stable employment, so that they can actually earn a living and work with one employer,” he said.

Dr. Samir Sinha, the director of geriatrics at Sinai Health System and the University Health Network, has been advocating for an overhaul for the homecare system for years.

Sinha said more than 38,000 Ontarians are on wait lists to get into longterm care because there isn’t enough access to home care.

But the cost to care for someone in long- term care is $ 180 a day, compared to $ 103 a day in the home care system, he said.

“When we don’t actually have enough home and community care available it puts incredible pressures on our hospitals and it also creates incredible pressure on a nursing home system, which is expensive to run,” he said.

On Thursday, the Ontario government announced that it was giving pay raises to personal support workers throughout the health- care system in a bid to recruit and retain them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Doug Ford said about 147,000 workers in long- term care, hospitals, and community care are eligible for the increase. Personal support workers in longterm care and community care will be eligible for a $ 3 an hour pay increase, while personal support workers in hospitals will see a $ 2 an hour pay hike.

home care wasn’t seen as a critical alternativ­e.

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