By MPP Toby Barrett

In Ontario alone, our population of seniors is expected to almost double, from 2.3 million in 2016 to 4.6 million in 2041. These greater numbers of elderly people predicate an ever-increasing need for health and long-term care services. 

In 2016, Statistics Canada reported for the first time that seniors outnumber children in our country.  That ratio shows no signs of changing.   

Seniors are treasured family members, friends, and often colleagues. They’ve worked hard, and many fought hard, to make this land truly strong and free. Our shared goal is to see them healthy and happy in their own homes.  For those living with disability and sickness, we want them as comfortable and secure as possible. In short, we want people in their golden years to have the best care available.

I am proud to be part of a government committed to providing the best care available… a health care system that works for patients, families, and seniors. The care and safety of our seniors in our long-term care homes is a top priority.

Staffing is an essential part of ensuring safe and high-quality care for long-term care home residents. All long-term care home licensees must provide appropriate levels of staffing based on the unique and evolving care and safety requirements of residents. Staff providing direct care to residents must receive annual training and re-training in behaviour management, mental health, as well as abuse recognition and prevention.

The Ontario government prioritizes the care and safety of long-term care residents and is committed to improving health and wellness outcomes for all. This includes eliminating wait times and hallway medicine.

We have our work cut out for us. After 15 years of mismanagement there are now over 32,800 Ontarians on the long-term-care waiting list – up from roughly 22,600 in 2015. 

At the beginning of this year, 4,800 acute care beds in emergency departments were people who are too sick or infirm to be at home. Many were elderly who were unable to return home and unable to find a place in long-term care.  

The Ontario Long-Term-Care Association (OLTCA) outlines three ways the government can mitigate the situation: hire more staff, build and modernize long-term-care homes, focus on care, not redundant paperwork.

Larger communities like Scarborough, Whitby, and Oshawa have some of the longest waits for long-term-care spaces, but problems exist right here in Haldimand-Norfolk. Our area caregivers voice the same concerns and suggest the same solutions.

Our government has committed to creating 15,000 LTC beds within a five-year period of time, and 30,000 in the next 10 years. We are immediately taking action with the first round of 6,075 long-term-care beds, some of which are in our riding.

We have also announced a new investment of $90 million that will support more than 1,100 beds and spaces in hospitals and community settings across the province. But, as the OLTCA mentioned, just as it has for business, red tape has impeded the ability of caregivers to do their job of focusing on patients. Instead, they spend an inordinate amount of time doing paperwork and complying with regulation.

There are no easy answers, but we are working diligently to find ways to make our system work better for our seniors to develop a system that is more accountable and more worthy of the trust of the people who use it.  

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk