News From the Park – long-term care facilities

Call me a dreamer or idealist, if you will. I’ve certainly been called much worse. I am proud to wear such a moniker because living here in Canada, I’m happy to say I am certainly not alone. In fact, I think one of our greatest traits as Canadians is to believe in doing what is right and that brighter days in our future are possible if we work together.

The late Jack Layton’s last words in his final letter to Canadians inspired many to believe and live their lives following his advice. “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Jack may be gone, but he left us some pretty good advice. If I can be so bold to say so, I think that his influence may have played a part in Canadians overall decision to turn away from the populist pathway in the recent federal election.

A person’s greatest responsibility is to respect and care for one another. And for those who are elected to positons of power, with that power comes even greater responsibility to see to the needs and welfare of those who we represent. And in all honesty, I don’t think the Government of Ontario is showing the respect and care that Ontarians deserve.

I raise this issue here because recently some very disturbing news came to light in the Ontario Legislature. Every Canadian knows that we must all brace ourselves to tackle the challenge of a ballooning population of seniors who are beginning to need access to long-term care. The Ontario Financial Accountability Office’s (FAO) report stated that Ontario’s long-term care system will swell with baby boomers over the next two decades. This will require an additional 55,000 new nursing home beds by 2034 – just to maintain the waiting list at the current level.

All of my colleagues and I report that our offices are constantly hearing from seniors or their families who are desperately seeking much needed access to long-term care facilities, but there are none to be had. Worse, the waiting lists to get into such places seem to be endless. Too often, with no possible other alternative, our seniors are forced to go into local hospitals, taking up spaces that are actually needed for acute patients. This means that emergency department patients are relegated to receive treatment in hallways and other unconventional spaces. Places that offer no comfort, privacy or dignity. This is a tragic and unacceptable reality.

In Ontario, about 1,000 patients are being treated in hospital hallways daily, a number that is expected to increase as the flu season arrives. Last season, there were 5,450 flu-related hospitalizations in Ontario and 275 deaths.

In the Legislature, Andrea Horwath quoted Ministry of Health reports stating that right now in Ontario, there are 35,000 seniors on waiting lists for access to long-term care. Long-Term Care Minister Marrilee Fullerton has promised Ontarians that the Conservatives will open 15,000 new beds within the next five years. At first glance, this may sound good. But, even if the waiting list stayed at 35,000 people, even if they were able to hand on for five years, that 15,000 new beds would not accommodate even half of the existing list! And like the FAO said, Ontario is going to need 55,000 new beds by 2034.

New Democrats have gathered evidence indicating that since Doug Ford has taken office, only 21 nursing home beds have been created. Not 210 beds. Not 2,100 beds. Just 21 new beds. And to make matters worse, we now have learned that it takes 36 months from approval to finishing construction for an approved number of beds to actually become available. This is not acceptable.

Just to be clear, it was not any better under the Liberal watch during which a meager 611 new nursing home beds opened between 2011 and 2018.

And now, to add insult to injury, New Democrats have learned from a new Freedom of Information (FOI) request that the recently announced new bed allocations by the Ford Government were actually already announced by the previous government. The FOI document indicates that the Conservatives’ Oct. 3, 2018, announcement of 6,000 new long-term care beds didn’t produce any new allocations since the Liberals’ April 18, 2018, announcement of 5,000 new long-term care beds.

By pretending to allocate beds that were already allocated, Ford is willfully ignoring a crisis. Andrea stated that “It’s shameful for the Conservatives to attempt to coast on the abysmal record of the Liberals while taking long-term care in Ontario from bad to worse. Seniors can’t sleep in re-announced beds that don’t exist.”

During my years as MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin, I have seen countless examples of how the people from this region stand together for what matters. People here know that our first priority in life is to respect and care for one another, through thick or thin. I truly believe that government representatives are elected to see to it that this happens at every level.

This province should be investing more in long-term care, not performing sleight-of-hand moves like taking credit for another government’s work, just to make give the illusion that leaders are making progress when actually there is no real progress or action. The people who built our province – our parents, our friends, our coworkers, our neighbours and even ourselves one day– deserve to age with dignity.

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues, or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected]or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Mike Mantha