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Ontario has abandoned frail and elderly, says report

By: Jonathan Migneault - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Feb 26, 2014 - 4:52 PM |

Government brought to task for cuts to the health care system

Cuts to Ontario's health-care system over the past 20 years have had an especially negative impact on the province's elderly and frail citizens, who depend most on health-care services, says a new report by the Ontario Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists (OSLA) and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).

“The people who built this country, the people who fought its wars, are being abandoned, pushed out of the system and sent home without adequate supports,” OCHU president Michael Hurley, told media Tuesday.

The report, called "Pushed Out of Hospital, Abandoned at Home: After Twenty Years of Budget Cuts, Ontario’s Health System is Failing Patients," took aim at the province's strategy of decreasing inpatient hospital services in favour of home care, which is typically less expensive.

Hurley said the problem with the strategy is that home-care services have not been allocated the resources to keep up with the growing influx of new patients.

According to Ontario's auditor general, funding per capita for home care in Ontario declined by 14 per cent between 2004 and 2009.

Today, there are more than 10,000 Ontarians on a waiting list for some type of health service support at home and another 25,000 waiting for a nursing home bed, it continues.

In 2011, the OSLA and OCHU opened a provincial hotline to hear Ontarians' stories about their experiences with the health-care system. They received more than 600 responses – and around 150 from Northern Ontario.

Researchers called back the respondents to transcribe their stories and fact check the details.

Mary Cook, the OSLA's executive director, said the anecdotes supported the statistics they had heard about the problems with Ontario's health-care system.

In one story, a respondent described the care her mother received after she was admitted to hospital for stroke symptoms.
The respondent said her 87-year-old mother was neglected in the emergency room for hours. Hospital staff eventually determined the caller's mother had gone into cardiac arrest.

After she was stabilized, the hospital later focused its efforts on getting her discharged, the respondent said.

“Your mother is not a priority,” she was told.

The respondent's mother was in acute Care for a month before being discharged.

“The way they treat seniors – it's as though being a senior is a disease in and of itself,” said the report's account. “She was denied access to services. She was denied access to a rehab program for her stroke. When I wanted rehab – when I wanted anything – I was told my mother was not a priority.”

Hurley, the OCHU president, said the province has mismanaged billions in health-care funds, and said no new money would be required to fix the system.

Instead, he said, changes to the management of those funds, such as removing doctors from a fee-for-service billing system – which he said encourages them to recommend more procedures and prescribe more medication than necessary – would help reduce health-care costs.

In Ontario, physician costs were $3.7 billion in 1992; but were $8 billion in 2012.

Hurley said drug costs have also gotten out of control, and need to be regulated.

“The drug companies are gaming the Ontario population big time,” he said.

The report also recommended the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care re-open chronic and alternative level of care beds to give the frail and elderly the in-hospital restorative care and therapies they require.

It also recommended the province not ration care, and instead give those who need home care, therapies or other services the care hours they need, without being charged user fees.
Jonathan Migneault

Jonathan Migneault

Staff Writer


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