Who is responsible for paying for home care and home medical assistance? How much should we expect the province to help? How much of the work will fall upon unpaid family and friends? How much will come from professional home care service providers? Premier Wynne and Minister Hoskins perpetuate the myth of heathcare entitlements by talking a big game but the truth is that when it comes to in-home care, we are mostly on our own.
This past Saturday, The Globe and Mail released an in-depth look at the state of in-home care in Ontario. The article comes at a time when there is a drastic shift towards in-home care in the province, relocating patients away from hospitals and long-term care facilities, and into their homes.
When outlining the government’s priorities for the year, Kathleen Wynne wrote to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Eric Hoskins, that the government needs to prioritize expanding “home and community care to ensure that people receive care as close to home as possible.” It's ambiguous statements like this that make people think that there will be help available.
The Globe and Mail article brings to light just how far the province is from fully meeting this goal. Among the findings outlined in the article, the report found that:
Ontario has the fewest hospital beds per capita of any province in Canada.
The number of Canadians receiving in-home care has gone up 55 per cent in the past three years.
The number of beds in long-term care facilities (nursing homes) have only increased three per cent since 2007.
The funding for in-home care varies between regions and there is a lack of consistency.
Lack of funding has forced some community-care centres to raise their requirements for funding in-home are.
Unpaid family members are being instructed to conduct more medical assistance in an attempt to reduce the cost of paying registered professionals.
Treating patients in their homes is more cost effective, more comfortable and often better for the patients’ health than being treated in hospitals. The average cost of treating a patient in the hospital is nine times more expensive than treating patients at home. When patients are treated at home, they are much less likely to become depressed or have life-threatening infections. When possible, treating patients in-home is better for both the province and the patient.
Ontario is divided into 14 regions in an attempt to organize the distribution of funding for in-home care. CCAC . Unfortunately, there are discrepancies in funding between regions. Some regions have almost half of the funding per capita as others. There is a vale of secrecy around the CCAC funding and entitlement models. This lack of transparency combined with repeated empty political statements create unrealistic expectations, confusion and disappointment. In-home care should not be dependent on where the patient lives and people should be told the truth about what is available and how much they are entitled to.
The government’s funding for in-home care falls drastically short of meeting the province’s needs. As the population ages and the need for in-home care increases, Community Care Access Centres are having to limit the number of visits to patients who need them. As a result, almost a million Ontarians spend more than 10 unpaid hours each week supporting the needs of their relatives.
Learn more about Ontario's Community Care Access Centres
Today, the burden of home care is placed on untrained, unpaid friends and relatives. The province needs to clearly communicate what people can expect and then keep their promises. Families don't mind helping the people they love by acquiring privately paid support or providing the care themselves; but they do mind the disappointment and confusion that comes from a failed system that promises more than it can offer.