Not enough nurs­ing home beds added by Ford, NDP says

The Peterborough Examiner - - CANADA & WORLD - ROB FER­GU­SON

On­tario opened just 21 new nurs­ing home beds in the first year of the Ford gov­ern­ment at a time when 35,000 se­niors are on the wait­ing list, New Demo­crat Leader An­drea Hor­wath says, push­ing the for a faster ap­proval and con­struc­tion process.

“You have to find a way to speed things up and pro­vide some relief,” Hor­wath urged Thurs­day, a day af­ter the prov­ince’s in­de­pen­dent Fi­nan­cial Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice (FAO) warned On­tario’s hos­pi­tal hall­way health care cri­sis will worsen over the next two years be­cause of the back­log.

Quot­ing fig­ures from the Min­istry of Health, Hor­wath said the 21 beds came on stream at the same time as 2,812 peo­ple were added to the wait­ing list.

“It keeps grow­ing,” she said Thurs­day.

Long-Term Care Min­is­ter Mer­rilee Fuller­ton said the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, which has promised to open 15,000 new beds within five years, is work­ing to open beds more quickly with about 8,000 al­lo­cated so far.

But she noted it now takes 36 months from ap­proval to fin­ish­ing con­struc­tion, a pe­riod of­fi­cials are try­ing to shorten.

“We know it’s go­ing to take real ac­tion to cre­ate the ca­pac­ity that’s re­quired and that’s why we’re stream­lin­ing pro­cesses to make sure we get shov­els in the ground,” Fuller­ton, a med­i­cal doc­tor, told the leg­is­la­ture’s daily ques­tion pe­riod.

“We have large num­bers of se­niors be­gin­ning to age.”

The FAO re­port said the longterm care sys­tem will swell with baby boomers over the next two decades, re­quir­ing an ad­di­tional 55,000 new nurs­ing home beds by 2034 to main­tain the wait­ing list at cur­rent lev­els. The Con­ser­va­tives have pledged an ad­di­tional 15,000 nurs­ing home beds from 2023 to 2028, along with a plan to “re­de­velop” another 15,000 ex­ist­ing beds but Hor­wath said that doesn’t come close to meet­ing the 55,000 beds that will be needed.

“The Fi­nan­cial Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice’s re­port made it pretty clear that the gov­ern­ment needs to in­crease in­vest­ment in long-term care if they want to make a dent in the wait­ing list or get pa­tients out of hos­pi­tal hall­ways,” Hor­wath added.

Hos­pi­tal wards are back­logged with pa­tients who no longer need acute care but can’t go back to their houses or re­tire­ment homes be­cause they need nurs­ing home care.

That makes it harder for emer­gency depart­ment pa­tients who are re­ceiv­ing treat­ment in hall­ways and other un­con­ven­tional spa­ces to move into tra­di­tional hos­pi­tal beds.

About 1,000 pa­tients are being treated in hos­pi­tal hall­ways daily, a num­ber that is ex­pected to in­crease as the flu sea­son ar­rives.

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