Ontario’s reform could help seniors get better access to physiotherapy
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials – Private physiotherapy companies will lose their decades-long stranglehold on services.
Apr 21 2013. Editorial
Change can be both painful and good. And depending on who’s talking about it, the Ontario Ministry of Health plan to revamp its funding of physiotherapy services is either great news or the beginning of rehabilitation doom.
What is clear, though, is that transformation is needed. As the Star’s Robert Benzie reports, the current system, based on a model of private clinics clustered mostly in the Toronto and Hamilton region, just isn’t meeting the needs of seniors across the province.
It certainly saves health dollars if Ontario’s elderly remain as strong as possible in their final years. Physiotherapy can prevent the falls that send many into a costly downward spiral.
For roughly 40 years, most physiotherapy for seniors has been paid (through OHIP) to for-profit clinics that had a stranglehold on the system. And hey, in these times of austerity no one can complain about a little competition.
Now, Health Minister Deb Matthews says she’s going to break that grip and instead send the money to the Local Integrated Health Networks, which will pay physiotherapists to care for seniors in home care or living in long-term care. (The private clinics can still compete for the business.)
Matthews said the province will spend $156 million on physio services next year, mostly on seniors. She expects to save $16 million off last year’s $172 million in fees by opening up the system.
It is, with qualification, one glimmer of potentially positive change in a health-care system that has been systematically cutting physiotherapy jobs from hospitals and community-based care. The LHINs that will disperse the money must ensure it isn’t stalled by red tape.
Indeed, the affected physiotherapy companies warn of a service loss. “People will be disappointed,” says Tony Melles, of the Designated Physiotherapy Clinics Association. He says the government told his association that it actually spent $200 million last year, so its budget of $156 million is a decrease.
Matthews expects private clinics to fight back. “Bring it on,” she said, claiming changes will “clear the waiting lists” allowing another 218,000 Ontarians to receive physiotherapy, for a total of 500,000.
The physiotherapists certainly approve. Amanda Sharp, of the Ontario Physiotherapists Association, says the announcement is more about reallocation of money than any cuts to the system. “This is a good news story.” She’s right.
The reality is that people are getting older and deserve easier access to services that will keep them strong. Matthews is grappling with the health-care needs of an aging society and this is one step — of a very long journey — in the right direction.
< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/04/21/ontarios_reform_could_help_seniors_get_better_access_to_physiotherapy_editorial.html >