Parry Sound-Muskoka has a higher number of seniors living here than the provincial average and as more people retire, especially to this area, the ability to provide adequate services for an aging population has become a growing concern.
The issue was raised at Thursday’s all-candidates meeting. Here’s what the candidates had to say when the moderator, Huntsville/Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce General Manager Kelly Haywood, posed a question about the issue forwarded by one of the event sponsors.
Incumbent MPP and PC candidate Norm Miller said his government has committed to adding 30,000 new long-term care beds to the system over 10 years. “There’s 32,000 people on the waitlist for long-term care beds across the province and this is having a real effect on creating hallway health care in our hospitals across the province,” said Miller, referring to people not being able to leave the hospital to receive care elsewhere due to a shortage of long-term care beds. “I think we need to learn from our frontline people… and learn how to make things better.” He said he had recently spoken to someone who was a PSW for many years and she was talking about the amount of paperwork involved. “It’s important to have records but if you’re spending all your time doing record keeping, that’s taking away from the time that’s really important, which is looking out for the people, the clients, the people in the long-term care home.”
Liberal Candidate Brenda Rhodes said her government also has a 10-year-plan that is going to produce 30,000 more long-term care beds. She also said the Liberals would provide funding to increase the amount of time nurses spend with each patient in long-term care homes to an average of four hours per day. Rhodes also said there is a subsidy that will be given to seniors to help with things like snow removal and things like retrofits to their home, with the aim of “just keeping them in their homes and safe longer.”
NDP candidate Erin Horvath said her party would create 40,000 more long-term care beds in the next ten years and 15,000 of those will be created in the next five years. She also said her party would invest $300 million to $320 million annually to support additional beds. She spoke of the ability to keep couples entering the long-term care system together. “That should be a basic right so this is something that we’re standing for.” She also said her party has promised to inject 75 million into hospice care.
Horvath said in addition to having long-term care beds, the ability for seniors to stay in their home is missing. “The NDP is introducing allowance for the deferral of taxes until a home is sold and that means you don’t have to choose between staying in your home or not. They’re doing this in BC and finding that people still do have money to pass on to their family,” she said.
“For long-term care beds and personal support workers, clearly this is an area that needs funding,” said Green candidate Matt Richter. “Health care funding occupies approximately half of our budget, so we need to get our spending correct so that we can be using our tax dollars and justifying how we can use those to honour these long-term beds and that’s something that needs to consistently be put out there, how are we going to pay for this.”
Richter added, “we can all have glowing accolades as to what we’re going to do and how many beds we can promise… we must recognize that over the last 11 years, since I entered politics, this is an issue that has not gone away. So we can promise all we want but unless we’re going to come up with realistic spending plans and ways that we can fund long-term beds, then we’re going to be here four years from now.”
He spoke of the need to “truly get at the core of the problem and look at how our money can be better invested. When we look at disease prevention and health promotion and the amount of money that the Royal Vic hospital health stat said that that could save over a 10-year period—they’re looking at well over 15 billion dollars.”
Independent candidate Jeff Mole said the situation in health care will only get worse due to an aging population. “I would argue that taxpayers need to find better ways to save money elsewhere to fund our growing need.” He said he’s hoping to be elected because he has policies that will save taxpayers “hundreds of billions of dollars that are being wasted through private profit and exporting to other jurisdictions.” Mole said it is in the riding’s interest to elect an independent candidate. “I can work with whichever party forms government.”
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