Long-term care for seniors falling short

Throughout January, MPPs have been meeting and listening to testimony on the McGuinty Liberals’ Bill 140, the Long-Term Care Homes Act.
People tell us the bill really should be called the “No Minimum Standards for Seniors Act” because that’s what it does.
It fails to set minimum standards of care for seniors in long-term care—our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers—the people who built this province.
Back in 2003, Dalton McGuinty promised to reinstate minimum standards of care for residents in Ontario’s long-term care homes. He promised to restore the 2.25 hours of hands-on daily care for each long-term care resident—a regulation that was cancelled by the former Conservative government in 1996.
Despite Mr. McGuinty’s promises, there are no minimum standards of care in Bill 140. There is nothing in that bill that ensures frail and elderly seniors living in long-term care facilities will get the care they need.
It’s another broken promise.
Minimum standards of care are so important for the 75,000 Ontario seniors who live in long-term care homes. Those standards are the only way to ensure they live in dignity—to ensure they get baths, good meals, exercise, and recreational opportunities they need and deserve.
Standards also are important to the dedicated front-line health care workers who are working longer and harder than ever caring for seniors.
Proof that minimum standards are necessary came in the form of a 2001 report done by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which compared the care received by Ontarians in long-term care homes with residents in similar settings in other provinces, the U.S., and Europe.
While Ontario residents had higher care needs, they received the fewest hours of nursing, mental health, and rehabilitation services. By 2001, they were receiving only 2.04 hours of hands-on care—less than the minimum standard of care cancelled by the Conservatives in l996.
Not only does Bill 140 fail to offer any guarantee on minimum standards for long-term care residents, it also reneges on another key promise the McGuinty Liberals made, this time to veterans.
In a meeting two years ago with representatives of the Royal Canadian Legion, Health minister George Smitherman promised this legislation would create a seniors’ ombudsman to investigate long-term care complaints.
By reneging on this promise, the McGuinty Liberals also rejected the advice of their own Seniors Advisory Committee on Long-Term Care, which recommended the appointment of a seniors’ ombudsman for long-term care residents in an Aug. 18, 2005, letter to Smitherman.
The committee members stated: “We feel the current system which relies solely on government staff is simply not responsive enough to ensure seniors’ rights are protected in an objective and fair fashion.”
The McGuinty Liberals have done little to address the crisis that affects the long-term care sector. The fact that there just isn’t enough funding for adequate facilities, quality care, and enough front-line workers in our communities is unacceptable.
Like so many pieces of legislation introduced by the McGuinty Liberals, this bill fails to address any of the concerns that people have raised.
While the government likes to pretend the bill keeps the promises made to seniors—and to all Ontarians—during the 2003 election, it fails to address serious problems with long-term care in Ontario.
Ontarians deserve better.

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