A hospital is not a home

TheStar.com – Opinion/editorial – A hospital is not a home
August 25, 2008

Keeping a quadriplegic in a hospital bed costs the Ontario health system $1,200 a day. Providing that same person with an attendant at home would cost $200 a day, freeing up hospital beds and money to provide home attendants for others.

But many disabled people who have been ready to leave hospital for up to three years have been stuck on a waiting list for attendants – costing the system more than $1.3 million for each of them, according to a report from the Ontario Community Support Association.

That makes no sense in an already severely taxed health-care system.

Almost 1,450 people with spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities have been languishing on waiting lists for up to 10 years, 900 of them in Toronto. Home attendants help such people who long to be independent perform daily tasks like dressing, bathing and eating.

Without attendant services, they are forced to remain in hospitals, long-term care facilities and rehabilitation facilities, all with higher costs to the system. It would cost just $73 million over the next five years to address the waiting list – far less than the cost of keeping independent-minded people warehoused against their wishes.

The problems are getting worse as society ages. Fifteen per cent of those on the waiting list in Toronto are living with their parents, many of whom are seniors and can’t cope with the burden, according to the report.

The costs of not fixing this problem far outweigh the advantages. The support association wants the provincial government to hold an emergency forum to discuss solving what has become an “unprecedented crisis situation.”

Apart from the dollars involved, it is a human rights issue. The disabled should have a right to choose the type of care they receive. The House of Commons has backed the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which includes the right to a range of in-home, residential and other services. It is time Ontario recognized these rights.

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