OTTAWA — Two funding streams for long-term care are being eliminated by Doug Ford, taking millions of dollars away from care homes — but even as those cuts threaten to make life even less safe, healthy and dignified for seniors in care, the Ford government is hiking the fees residents pay by about $500 a year.
Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in Ottawa Thursday, where she released government memos detailing the changes, and calling for a find-and-fix inquiry into long-term care to not only stop it from getting worse, but to actually make it better.
"For any of us with a loved one in long-term care, we know underfunding has real consequences," said Horwath, speaking outside the Centre d'accueil Champlain long-term care home. "It means our loved one doesn’t always get the help they need to brush their teeth and get dressed in the morning. It means they could ring a call bell to get help to make it to the washroom, but be left waiting until its too late. And it means there are fewer staff to prevent falls, or even violence in long-term care homes.
"Cutting the funding to long-term care homes would take these problems from bad to worse."
The memos from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care reveal that Ford is cancelling the High Wage Transition Fund, which helps pay for staff wages, and the Structural Compliance Premium fund, which helps keep long-term care homes up to modern standards. The two cuts amount to more than $34 million being ripped out of long-term care homes annually.
At the same time, Ford is raising the co-payment fees that long-term care residents pay by 2.3 per cent, which is one of the highest price hikes in the last decade. A middle class senior in care will pay about $500 more a year, as a result.
“Together, we can fight for care for our loved ones that’s dignified, that’s compassionate, and that’s safe. Seniors living in long-term care built our province and cared for us. We owe it to them to fight these cuts, and get to work building better long-term care in Ontario.”
The inquiry proposed by Horwath would look into the safety of residents and staff, funding, staffing levels, regulation, inspections, and more. For more than a year, she’s called for that inquiry to be a second phase of the Wettlaufer inquiry, which reported its recommendations Wednesday. Although the Wettlaufer inquiry's mandate was specific to the conditions that failed to prevent a killer from attacking residents, Justice Eileen Gillese reported finding understaffing and underfunding, and called out systemic problems in long-term care that leave residents vulnerable.