The pressure on Ontario’s long-term care homes has been enormous since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which is maybe why it’s understandable that there’s been three long-term care ministers in Ontario during that time period. The province’s latest Long-Term Care Minister, Markham-Stouffville MPP Paul Calandra, was in Guelph Friday night to answer some tough questions about his recently acquired portfolio.
Calandra was hosted by Guelph Progressive Conservative Candidate Peter McSherry and his campaign. McSherry called it his kick-off event for the upcoming provincial election campaign, and this was definitely a good news story.
“The Progressive Conservative government has a fabulous story to talk about when it comes to long-term care and the investments they’ve made,” McSherry said. “We’re building 199 beds, which is the equivalent of giving us another Riverside Glen, and we’re refurbishing 150 beds, which is the equivalent of refurbishing Eden House and LaPointe Fisher.
“These are fabulous investments that we’ve made in this community in order to alleviate waiting times,” McSherry added.
According to McSherry, there were 100 people participating in the town hall, about 20 of them were assembled in-person at the Evergreen Seniors Centre, and they weren’t all fans. Members of Ontario Health Coalition’s Guelph chapter had planted signs in front of the centre warning about the potential privatization of healthcare, and there were some tough questions inside too starting with long-term sustainable solutions for the care of seniors, meaning home care as well as institutional care.
“There are a lot of people who want to be in long term care, but a vast majority of people, given the choice, would rather be in their own home with the proper care that they need,” Calandra said calling it a “multi-pronged solution.”
“It’s homecare, it’s better palliative care, and it’s better hospitals so that we can treat people quicker and get them back into the community,” Calandra explained. “It’s also a massive, massive investment in health and human resources. For long-term care alone, it’s an additional 27,000 people that are being hired like nurses and physiotherapists, and it will take some time to get there.”
In terms of getting assurances that people in long-term care are getting the best possible care, Calandra said that the Government of Ontario is taking steps to ensure that people can have all the information they need about the current state of the province’s long-term care homes at their fingertips. He also said that the government is trying to create more avenues to hear from people about their long-term care concerns.
“Even before the pandemic, it was very obvious to everyone that significant investments had to happen in long term care, and that the system, the way it was built, was not working for the people,” Calandra said.
Part of the investment was the $673 million that was announced last fall to increase the amount of time spent with each long-term care home resident up to four hours per day per resident. The goal is to get to four hours in the next three years, which Calandra phrased as a matter of logistics.
“We need to phase that in because we have to train the PSWs and nurses that we need to fulfill the four hours of care,” Calandra explained. “We’re working with the education sector, and with the providers in the municipal, nonprofit and the profit sectors, and we said, ‘What do we need in order to get to four hours? What kind of timing do you need to go down? How many PSWs are going to get trained in that time? How many nurses can we get trained?’ That three year transition is what all of them felt was needed in order to accommodate getting us to the four hours.”
Another question asked was about for-profit long-term care homes in the province, and the ethics around the CEOs of private providers taking home large salaries and bonuses. Calandra said all homes, public and private, have to meet the same standard of care regardless of who’s running them.
“We will not say that one sector can provide long term care because we need to get to 30,000 beds and beyond. Building long term care is going to be happening for a long time in the Province of Ontario if we’re ever going to get that waiting list to where we need to be,” Calandra said.
“I don’t have 30,000 beds being applied for by municipal partners across the province so I have a decision to make: Do I not approve it because it’s a for-profit, and wait until a municipal partner comes online?” Calandra explained. “So it’s not who provides a service, it’s how the service is regulated, and in the past, I would submit to you, that the Province of Ontario has not put the rules in place, and has not the levels of care place, to ensure that all of our operators can succeed.”
Election Day in Ontario is June 2.