Improving home care a priority

Since I was first elected in the fall of 2011, one of my biggest priorities has been ensuring that people living across Northwestern Ontario have fair and equitable access to health-care services.
While a great deal of work needs to be done, one of the most urgent gaps is access to home care services.
In fact, access to this home care was one of the key issues raised by those who turned out to my town halls with NDP health critic France Gelinas this past fall, and it is a concern experienced all across the province.
Home care is an investment which yields a huge return. Not only is keeping a person healthy and in their homes longer good for the overall health of the patient, but costs significantly less money than it would to treat a person with non-emergent symptoms in a hospital bed, long-term care home, or an emergency room.
Despite providing benefits to both the recipient and the system as a whole, home care has become a neglected service in Ontario. It is not unusual for patients in the north to be waiting months to access services they require urgently, and too many are being denied access altogether because the waiting list is too long.
This creates anxiety for the patient, and stress on the overall health system as many are forced to turn to emergency rooms for non-urgent care.
That is why members of my caucus and I have made access to home care one of our priorities for the upcoming provincial budget. As a result, we are asking the province to implement a practical and achievable Five-Day Home Care Guarantee as part of it.
Accomplishing this would be relatively simple and would involve providing Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) with $30 million in additional funding that will be used to eliminate the waiting list.
This would include $10 million for the 3,300 people who are waiting for personal support worker care, $10 million for those waiting for services like physiotherapy and occupational therapy, and an additional $10 million in flexible funding that would be used by CCACs to ensure they have the resources to meet the current need.
The dollars necessary to fix this problem already exist within the system. In fact, economist Don Drummond found more than $1 billion in potential health-care savings simply by doing a more effective job of managing the system.
By improving access to home care, the overall costs of providing many more expensive acute care services will be reduced, resulting in more cost-savings for the province.
Waiting for home care services, or being denied service because of waiting lists, is simply not acceptable. There are very simple and achievable steps that can be taken to ensure no one waits more than five days for the home care they need.
You can read about my other four key priorities for the 2013 provincial budget in my Pre-Budget Riding Report, which will arrive in your mailbox this week.