By Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller
We might not like to admit it but we are all getting older. And here in Parry Sound-Muskoka we have a larger senior population than most places. According to the 2016 Canadian Census, 29.3 per cent of the year-round population living in Parry Sound-Muskoka is over the age of 65, and I would expect that has increased since then. It isn’t a surprise to anyone who lives here that seniors make up a large and growing portion of our population. We need to make sure our facilities and services can keep up.
Even before COVID-19 hit we knew that we didn’t have space in long-term care homes to care for everyone who needed that kind of care.
Then came COVID-19. The pandemic has been extremely difficult for people living in Ontario’s long-term care homes. Of course there were the tragedies brought on by outbreaks of COVID-19, something that we were happily spared here in Parry Sound-Muskoka. But, even where there were no major outbreaks, residents suffered. They experienced isolation and loss of community because visitors were limited and at times group activities were cancelled. And with all the extra infection control measures, staff were overworked more than ever before.
In the Speech from the Throne delivered by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswell in early October, she discussed how the pandemic exposed the long-standing vulnerabilities of the long-term care sector caused by decades of underfunding and neglect.
We owe Ontario’s seniors the opportunity to age in comfort and dignity, so the Government of Ontario is committed to investing $2.68 billion to build and modernize long-term care homes around the province. The government is also investing $5 billion over four years to hire more than 27,000 staff, nurses, and personal support workers, to increase the daily hours of direct care for each resident. Lastly, to fix the sector’s structural problems, the government has introduced legislation to protect residents through better transparency, accountability, and enforcement.
The Government of Ontario has listened to the concerns of residents, families, advocates, and those working in the sector.
Key features of the government’s plan
As part of the plan to fix long-term care, Minister Rod Phillips recently introduced legislation to improve the well-being of residents in long-term care homes. If passed, the Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act, 2021 would repeal the current Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 and create the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021.
Some key features of the proposed Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021 include:
- Committing to provide an average of four hours of direct care per resident per day by March 31, 2025. The first step towards achieving this will be an increase in the current average hours of care provided by 36 minutes per resident per day by March 31, 2023.
- Strengthening the Resident’s Bill of Rights to align with the Ontario Human Rights Code to promote transparency, consumer choice, and resident protection.
- Implementing new requirements for mandatory public reporting on quality indicators, including standardized annual resident and family surveys.
If passed, the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, 2021 will improve living conditions for the roughly 70,000 Ontarians who live in the 626 long-term care homes across the province.
And, for the more than 38,000 Ontarians who as of June 2021 are on the waitlist to access a long-term care bed, Ontario is building more long-term care facilities. Ontario’s commitment to fixing the long-term care sector includes a substantial investment to build 30,000 modern beds around the province. This investment will decrease wait times and improve access to long-term care services for Ontario’s seniors for years to come.
Supporting local long-term care homes
Locally, the government is investing an additional $2,475,697 in the long-term care homes across Parry Sound-Muskoka this year to allow local homes to hire more staff so they can increase the hours of care resident receives, every day, in line with the provincial goals. And by 2024/25, local long-term care homes will collectively receive $15 million more in funding than they had been receiving prior to this year.
Across Ontario there are 20,000 new long term care spaces and 15,000 redeveloped spaces currently in planning or construction. And, of course, that includes the redevelopment of Huntsville’s Fairvern Nursing Home as a 160-bed facility. Planning and design work on the new Fairvern is underway and construction is expected to begin in fall 2023. The current plans look very exciting both for residents and staff. It is being designed to not only maximize infection prevention and control but also to feel less institutional. If you haven’t seen the plan, visit engagemuskoka.ca/fairvern.
Seniors deserve to live in a safe, comfortable facility where they receive the care they need. Unfortunately, our province has not invested enough in creating new and upgraded long-term care facilities for many years but we are doing that now. Ontario is taking steps to ensure that not only are there more beds available for seniors who need to live in a care facility but that those beds are in safe, modern facilities and that the people living in them get the care deserve.
Photo of MPP Norm Miller is courtesy of his office. Queen’s Park photo “June 2012 Ontario Legislature Toronto” by Priscilla Jordão, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.
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