Horwath unveils plans to improve long-term care homes

Merna Emara

On Tuesday, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath held a virtual media conference via Zoom and promised to improve long-term care homes in northwestern Ontario.
With the provincial elections coming up, one of Horwath’s promises to the province’s 630 long-term care homes is expanding the public system and ending for-profit long-term care in Ontario.
“There’s just no doubt northwestern Ontario has been ignored. The system is completely broken. Care homes and home-care are extremely short-staffed,” Horwath said. “People regularly get neglected. They get sick with dehydration and malnourishment. We have a revolving door of underpaid, part-time workers who are literally run off their feet.”
According to a report done last year by the provincial Financial Accountability Office, the average wait time for a long-term care bed in northwestern Ontario is 198 days.
The report also states that there were about 35,000 Ontarians waiting for long-term care beds in 2018-2019, a 78 per cent increase from the demand seen in 2011. The report attributes the increase of the wait list time to the growing number of Ontario’s aging population.
Between 2011 and 2018, the number of long-term care beds in Ontario increased by only 0.8 per cent while the population of Ontarians aged 75 and over grew by 20 per cent, the report stated.
Horwath said she has an eight-year plan to build small, modern homes, overhauling home care to help people live at home longer, clearing the waitlist and adding full-time, well-paid and well-trained caregivers.
“We’re going to guarantee a basket of services that will be the same in Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Windsor and Toronto,” Horwath said in the news conference. “Never again will we deny a woman in Thunder Bay the kind of home care services she could get if she were in Oshawa.”
The total cost of the eigh-year plan is $750 million annually over the course of the eight years. The $750 million will be granted for one-time capital investments and $3 billion for annual operation costs.
Horwath was also joined by Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa and guest speaker Estelle Cantera. Cantera joined to tell the story of how her mother suffered as she was mistreated during her stay at a long-term care home.
“Most in-home care were not accessible to us and the daily frontline workers involved were so overwhelmed with their case loads that they were consistently unable to support my mom’s needs,” Cantera said.
“Mom’s physical abilities were diminishing and the quality of care she was receiving was decreasing.”
Horwath said all parents deserve to be better off, no matter how much money is in their retirement fund and deserve to have the peace of mind that comes with that.
“We can have a system where every last dollar goes into better care, and better quality of life for our loved ones. We can build small, community-based homes so that you’ll be able to walk to your mom’s new home, rather than drive an hour to visit her facility,” Horwath said.
With COVID-19 having had its drastic effects on long-term care homes, Horwath said she is committed to building 50,000 spaces between 2022 and 2030 under this new model in small towns and rural areas.
“I’ve watched as northwestern families have struggled to get access to the same level of care on every metric,” Horwath said.
The next provincial election is scheduled for June 2, 2022.