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Gélinas Tory home care bill ‘tinkers and meddles’ but doesn’t fix the system

Ontario government says new legislation allows for more flexibility and, if passed, will ‘ensure that Ontarians can receive the right care in the right place’
France Gélinas is the MPP for Nickel Belt and the Ontario NDP’s health critic. (File)

The Ontario government has introduced new legislation that it says will help fix the province’s outdated home and community care system.

Health Minister Christine Elliott addressed the new bill on Tuesday to reporters, saying the current system was designed 30 years ago and doesn’t reflect the realities of today. She said the government’s intention is to make the system more flexible. 

"To ensure that Ontarians can receive the right care in the right place, and to help improve the patient flow within hospitals, we need to take a home and community care system designed about 30 years ago in the early 90s and bring it into the 21st century," Elliott said Tuesday. "Patients will benefit from more flexible and responsive care that recognizes that a one-size-fits-all approach is not the best way to meet their individual needs."

If passed, the bill would bring the home-care system under the new Ontario Health Team model and do away with service maximums, which currently limit the amount of services a person can receive.

The current system of delivering home care through contracts and limiting the delivery of community services to non-profit corporations would continue. 

The Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) system will be rebranded as Home and Community Care Support Services, but the basic structure will remain the same and will continue to deliver services for the next few years. 

As it functions now, patients have to go to care co-ordinator provided by a LHIN, a system the province described as “rigid.” The province said the new legislation aims to loosen that rigidity and remove some barriers, such as allowing patients to arrange for home care before they leave hospital for a smoother transition to home.

More detailed information on the province’s proposed changes can be viewed here.

In a release to media, Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas called the current home care system “disastrous,” but said the government’s proposed legislation doesn’t seem to do much to fix it.

“Doug Ford’s cuts and consolidations in health care have done nothing to fix hallway medicine and to get patients the care they need whether that’s in hospital, in long-term care, or at home,” she said. “Now, we’re given a bill that takes Ontario’s disastrous home care system, and tinkers and meddles a little, instead of fixing the system.”

Gélinas, who is her party’s health critic, said the NDP still have to fully review the bill, adding that successive Ontario governments have failed to fix the system. 

“We will take the time to fully review the bill Ford has put forward, but Ontarians will not stand for more Mike Harris-style privatization in home care,” she said. “Home care suffered from neglect under the Liberals and it’s gone from bad to worse under Doug Ford. 

“New Democrats believe that home care must be properly funded and have appropriate oversight. It must benefit the public and not the bottom line of private for-profit providers. We believe it’s time to talk about real solutions.” 

More than 700,000 patients received home care last year and more than 600,000 people used community services such as meals on wheels, Elliott said.

— With files from The Canadian Press