Funding nursing homes properly

Posted on July 24, 2008 in Governance Debates, Health Debates – Opinion/letters – Funding nursing homes properly
July 24, 2008

Re:Nursing home sector needs basic reform not more money, Comment July 22

Each year, dedicated long-term care homes, staff and volunteers deliver some 27.5 million hours of 24/7 care to 75,000 residents despite resource shortages and other challenges. This demonstrates a priority commitment to the residents in their home. To suggest otherwise through innuendo is a disservice to each of them as is the suggestion that their efforts should or can be replaced.

Ontario needs an appropriately funded senior’s care continuum that includes both home care and long-term care. The latter is evolving to meet the specialized needs of older, frailer residents with more complex medical conditions. The evidence of our severely underfunded care levels in the face of this reality was exposed in the 2001 Level of Service Study, which found that Ontario provided less daily care for residents with similar needs – in some cases, more than an hour less – than other provinces, states and countries. That this spurred a unanimous public voice for government to fund more of the care residents’ needs is both understandable and commendable.

A government decision to implement the 2,500 personal support workers and 2,000 nurses committed in this provincial budget will build on the progress made since then. A commitment to fully eliminate the remaining gap between level of care funded and needed is, however, still required.

Contrary to public mythology, Ontario’s long-term-care system is actually structured to maximize the benefits of this government funding on resident care. All resident care funding must be spent on resident care or it must be returned to government. Long-term care is about people caring for people who need this care. Both deserve our commitment and support.

Janet Lambert, Executive Director, Ontario Long Term Care Association, Markham

Professor Ernie Lightman is correct in stating that more money doesn’t necessarily translate into better care. Accountability for institutions and corporations is non-existent or severely limited at best. However, the solution is not to abandon the vulnerable and helpless seniors whose ailments require institutionalization, in favour of a focus on home care. If conditions were as appalling in day-care facilities, parents would be marching at Queen’s Park!

There are solutions for lack of accountability, but a shortage of will power to fight the status quo. Changes to inspection protocol and frequency, as well as having a website to publish rates of serious infractions by institution would be an effective start.

Marla Hauer, Thornhill

Pity the vulnerable elderly if Ernie Lightman’s fault-ridden theory that institutional care is easily replaced by community care is adopted by Queen’s Park. It was theories like his that closed psychiatric beds for the seriously mentally ill, creating the current breakdown in their care that we are facing today.

As a former executive director of the Ontario Schizophrenia Society, I watched the system become a shambles, with jails, prisons, streets, dingy rooms in run-down boarding houses replacing safe, medical institutions. Our pleas for improved, well-managed hospitals and our offerings of personal knowledge of the realities of caring for the insane were silenced by the prevailing theories of the community-care prophets. These theories were offered by sages who had no medical education.

Still, they convinced the government that they knew best about care for people with major psychiatric illnesses.

June Conway-Beeby, Toronto

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