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Ontario LTC system based on ‘cheapest services available,’ says health policy expert

Virtual online summit to discuss the future of long-term care in Ontario happens at 6 p.m. today
long term care
Ontario opposition leader Andrea Horwath held a pre-event online news conference leading up to a virtual online summit to be held tonight to discuss the future of long-term care in Ontario. (File)

Long-term care in Ontario has been built on a system that values the cheapest way of providing goods and services to the elderly patients who need the care. 

That opinion was offered today by Mississauga-based geriatrician Dr. Amina Jabbar, who is also regarded as a health policy expert.

Jabbar joined Ontario opposition leader Andrea Horwath Thursday morning for a pre-event online news conference leading up to a virtual online summit to be held tonight to discuss the future of long-term care in Ontario.   

Ontario's New Democrats are hoping to change long-term care for the better by hosting the online event that Horwath said will include input from front-line workers, health-care experts and union representatives. 

Horwath said part of the event will focus on what long-term care should and could look like in the future.

"What's the quality of care, what's the standard that we want when folks do have to go into long-term care," she asked. 

"We want a care system, a support system that gives seniors dignity and gives them the support they need regardless of their bank account, regardless of how much money they make or how much pension they have coming in. 

“Everybody should be able to have the quality of support and care that gives them and their loved ones the peace of mind that they deserve.” 

Jabbar said the pandemic exposed many problems that exist in long-term care in Ontario. 

"I think the tragedy of the COVID has really forced us to have conversations about what the long-standing problems have been in long-term care," she said. 


Cheapest options 


"In Ontario we have effectively built a system of care that values the cheapest options available,” said Jabbar. “It has meant that long-term care homes have been severely understaffed.”.

She added that the system also takes advantage of family members, effectively forcing them to become unpaid workers in nursing homes, even if they don't want to. She said the need for change is obvious.

"If there is any possibility for us to have a silver lining, I think it is finally widespread understanding that we need drastic change," she said.

Jabbar said there are three key areas to focus on.

She said there is a drastic need to improve integration between home care and long-term care.

Ontario also needs far better resources dedicated to infrastructure, one that respects the dignity of older adults.

The third item, she said, is the need for better data.

"We need to be able to measure things that we know affect the quality of care, like staffing ratios," said Jabbar.

She said none of the changes can come about until Ontario has a system that prioritizes people over profits.

Horwath said she hopes the discussion that occurs during the 90-minute summit will inspire change, and said some changes don't have to wait.

“We know long-term care homes are horribly understaffed, and front-line workers like personal support workers are underpaid,” said Horwath. 

“We are urging this government to take urgent action right now to staff up, get PSWs into full-time jobs with benefits, invest in nutrition, and do more comprehensive inspections. The Ford government could start that all tomorrow, making life better and safer for seniors right now.”

The online summit takes place at 6 p.m. on Zoom.


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Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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