By Jenn Watt
Published April 11, 2017
Last week, our local MPP Laurie Scott took the Liberal government to task about the length of long-term care wait times in our region. The Central East Local Health Integration Network, it turns out, has some of the longest wait times in the province to get placed in a nursing home.
There are more people waiting for beds than there are beds in the whole region. There are 9,529 beds at the LHIN’s 68 facilities and 9,825 people waiting.
That’s a pretty desperate situation.
In Haliburton, things are on a smaller scale, but the dilemma is still there.
If you’re waiting for a bed at one of Haliburton Highlands Health Services facilities – Highland Wood in Haliburton and Hyland Crest in Minden – the expected wait is hundreds of days. In Minden, it’s a 300-day wait. In Haliburton, more likely 600 days.
That’s fine if the person is getting by at home with plenty of assistance, but in many cases, those applying actually need that around-the-clock care that nursing homes provide.
(Extendicare has a much shorter waiting time at 75 days.)
Cost, location and level of care factor into what individual applicants need and can determine the time on the waiting list. According to the Community Care Access Centre, which facilitates placements, 77 per cent of those on the waitlist are waiting for the lower cost, basic accommodations. If you’re willing to pay more, for semi-private or private rooms, the wait time is shorter.
If you’ve had a chance to stop in to the county’s three long-term care homes, you’ll know how valuable they are, how necessary the care is, and how hard the staff work. These are crucial services and in a county that is rapidly aging, the beds are too few with less than 200 for the whole county. (Yes, you can choose to go out of the county, but many want to live near their loved ones.)
The flip side of this is the Ontario government is putting additional dollars into home care. Certainly, in the Highlands we’ve seen an expansion of this type of programming, in particular through the GAIN team, Geriatric Assessment and Intervention Network, which enhances the home care already being provided and the assistance of Community Support Services.
This investment is important and necessary, but shouldn’t mask the fact that additional dollars are needed for long-term care. Not everyone can age at home safely and we need the province to put money into more beds, more staff and more resources generally for nursing homes.