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Nursing-home residents could see an improvement in long-term care across Ontario

By Olivia Timm [1]

BELLEVILLE – A new bill could improve long-term care in Ontario if it passes its third reading.

Bill 33 is called the Time to Care Act [2], which adds a few changes to the Long-Term Care Homes Act [3], which all Ontario long-term care homes adhere to.

According to the Southeast Local Health Integration Network’s website [4], long-term-care homes are “residential homes that provide ongoing care to patients whose care needs cannot be met in the community.”

This level of support, according to the website, may be due to aging, disability or declining health.

The bill passed its second reading in November and would mandate a minimum of four hours a day of nursing and personal support services per resident.

Darleen Schroen, president of the Prince Edward County Family Council, says that each resident of a long-term-care home requires a different amount of care, so it would be useful to know what the flexibility is for each home.

A family council works with residents’ family members or friends and the long-term-care home to identify and resolve issues that affect residents’ quality of life, according to the Family Councils Ontario website [5].

Schroen used H.J. McFarland Home [6] in Picton, owned and operated by the Prince Edward County, as an example, saying that if the bill does pass, the team there would consider each resident individually.

“They would do an assessment on the residents. Some residents might not need that four hours of care,” she said.

Someone who is wheelchair-bound or needs help getting dressed and bathed would probably require the extra care, but more independent residents would not, Schroen explained.

The staff at the McFarland home are concerned that implementing this bill too quickly would result in a lack of funding to get the proper staff, Schroen.

“We would need at least between 10 and 12 staff in order to accomplish this … Where would the money come in order to hire those people? I’m assuming the Ministry (of Health and Long-Term Care) would put up some of the money,” she said.

Devoting time to implementing the legislation is also a concern, Schroen said, because it would deter from the time spent on resident care. Schroen says she believes the home would have to implement the regulation within six months.

“Anything is possible, it just seems like they’re really rushing it through, but it’s possible if they get the staffing and the funds to do this.”

Schroen said there is a plan to rebuild H.J. McFarland by 2025. The home is currently at capacity in terms of beds, and she says they won’t add more until the building is reconstructed.

“It’s an excellent facility. Right now, it is being run like it should be … They care about the residents and making them feel at home there,” she said.

Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff shared the council’s goals for H.J. McFarland Home during his New Year’s levee event Jan. 7.

Councillors and staff met with Dr. Eric Hopkins, Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care, in August to emphasize the importance of getting more long-term beds in the County.

“Additional beds would support the redevelopment of H.J. McFarland Memorial Home to meet the new long-term-care standards, which is required by 2025,” Quaiff said.

Council has already started to plan for the redevelopment of the home as part of the municipal budget of 2018, Quaiff said. In the short-term, staff at H.J. McFarland will unveil in early 2018 a vision for the long-term-care facility over the next two years.

“We have to do a complete rebuild on H.J. McFarland Home by 2025, so we are already working towards financial sustainability for it. We are talking, at a very early stage, with the minister of health and long-term care, because we need to have more beds. We don’t currently have enough beds to make it financially sustainable project,” Quaiff said.

Tthe home currently has around 85 beds, and the financial analysis shows that there need to be at least 125 to make it financially sustainable, he said.

Paul Huras, chief executive officer of the Southeast Local Health Integration Network [7], says he thinks he could agree with the regulations of the bill. However, like what Schroen said, he wants to better understand what flexibility long-term-care homes would have in terms of resident needs.

Since the bill has not been passed, there is no information available to organization that deal with long-term care about the financial impact. Huras said the needs that information to say whether he supports the legislation.

“We have to look at the financial impact to us. Anything that improves care to clients, patients and residents we support, but we do not understand the financial implications yet. An additional investment in long-term care is a good idea,” he said.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has also committed to adding 5,000 short-term beds to long-term-care facilities, and more in the longer term, according to Huras.