The province announced more than $2 million in health-care funding Oct. 26 with the goal of making a dent in the city’s hospital bed crisis.
The almost $2.1 million will be given to several community groups, mostly to support seniors who want to remain in their homes. Some funding will also support addiction and mental-health programs, which will directly ease pressure on Health Sciences North’s emergency department.
Rick Bartolucci, Northern Development and Mines Minister and Sudbury MPP, made the announcement at the Independence Centre and Network (ICAN) building in the city’s west end.
ICAN, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, provides support and services for people with physical disabilities and frail seniors so they can live as independently as they can for as long as possible.
“I remember being an advocate at city council for (ICAN) when the concept first started,” Bartolucci said. “You have made, without a doubt, an incredible difference in the lives of so many people … We know how important it is to provide Sudburians with the services they need to continue living in their own homes.”
He said the $2.1 million, which is Sudbury’s share of $7.5 million the North East Local Health Integration Network received for all of the northeast, is another step in changing the traditional way health care is delivered in Ontario. Providing more support to allow seniors to remain in their homes, rather than in hospital, is key to meeting health-care needs for years to come.
“Our existing service delivery model, although very, very good, has to be modified in order to meet the increasing pressures,” Bartolucci said.
Those changes are necessary because of the growing number of elderly Sudburians who are in acute care beds at the hospital, either because there isn’t a long-term care bed available for them, or they don’t have enough community support to live at home.
As of Oct. 26, the number of alternate level of care patients, as they’re known, in acute care beds in the hospital was 96. The lack of available hospital beds leads to long delays in the emergency department and cancellations of some elective surgeries.
Cynthia Stables, the LHIN’s director of communications and community engagement, said the Oct. 26 announcement will help matters on two fronts.
“I think it’s about two things: easing the pressure on Health Science’s North’s emergency department, where we know some assistance is needed,” Stables said. “And it’s about providing care for people where they want it most – in their homes, not in hospital.”
With Sudbury’s rapidly aging population, Stables said boosting home-support programs is vital.
“It’s an issue of demographics. We know that 18 per cent of people in northeastern Ontario are 65 and older. And that figure will double over the next 20 years.”
Marie Leon, ICAN’s CEO, said part of the funding will allow them to create new spaces where ALC patients can live as they prepare to return back home or move to a long-term care facility.
“The apartment is used to support (ALC) clients who are currently being cared for in the hospital,” she said. “This allows them to live in a more residential apartment setting, while also freeing up those beds in the hospital.”
ICAN also received $150,000 for support services for seniors who are still living at home.
David St. Georges, volunteer co-ordinator with Sudbury Red Cross, said most people know the Red Cross helps those recovering from a disaster. But he said the $600,000 the Red Cross is receiving will go towards their lesser-known services.
“Something we’ve been doing for a very long time is our seniors support programs,” St. Georges said.
Services they offer include a seniors transportation program, home cleaning, snow removal and grass cutting.
“These programs allow such a valuable part of our community to get to and from their medical appointments, keep a healthy and clean living space and to have the dignity of a moved lawn and a safe walkway,” he said.
Among groups receiving funding are:
- $300,000 - more assisted living supports for seniors at Sudbury Finnish Rest Home (Finlandia);
- $600,000 - Red Cross/VON mobile assisted living services for people to receive care in their homes;
- $247,000 - ICAN new congregate care apartment for seniors and transition to home unit, plus an additional $150,000 for assisted living services wherever needed in the community;
- $204,000 - Iris Addiction to expand outreach program and fund a full-time addiction worker;
- $494,500 - Canadian Mental Health Association/Health Sciences North - Community Crisis Model;
- $85,170 - Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre Mushkiki-gamik Outreach Support worker.