By MPP Toby Barrett

We all have a parent, a relative or a friend who has needed extra care as they get older. Many of us will one day need long-term care. That’s why it is absolutely vital the government plan ahead to ensure we have enough capacity to meet demand over the coming years – something that should have been done years ago.

With more than 32,000 seniors on the waiting list for a long-term bed in Ontario, and without increased capacity, the list is expected to reach almost 50,000 in the next three years. This is no way to treat society’s most vulnerable.

There are 300 homes and 30,000 beds that need to be rebuilt because they are over 30 years old. The present government, over the past 14 years, has accomplished a mere 30 per cent of the needed redevelopment.

Locally, there are nine long-term care homes in Haldimand-Norfolk which translate into 790 long-term care spaces. However, according to the Hamilton-Niagara-Haldimand-Brant Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), there is a waiting list of 215 people. In addition, Caressant Care in Courtland – which is within the SouthWest LHIN –  has 55 beds, with another 40 on the waiting list.

It is unacceptable that members of our communities are unable to receive proper treatment because this government refuses action, and it is unacceptable our seniors are dying without the dignity and respect they deserve after years of contributing to the province. This is not only unsafe for our patients, it is unsafe and unfair for our dedicated and hard-working caregivers.

People need better care, whether it be at home or in a facility.

Ontario can provide higher-quality care at a lower cost by investing in ways to keep people out of hospital through home care, in aging-at-home strategies. Transitioning patients from hospital to home with the supports they need is an area that requires focus. Building long-term care homes is part of that solution, but is by no means the whole solution.

One issue is the government’s use of the so-called bed rations – that is the number of beds per 1,000 people at least 75 years of age – as the metric to consider bed transfers. Bed rations don’t account for factors like long travel distances, added costs for local hospitals and municipalities, or the economic impact of closing long-term care homes in rural communities.

Rural Ontario needs the extra beds, and all ridings must be given fair and equal consideration, whether they’re government-held or opposition-held.

It’s important to note the chronic and ongoing shortfalls in long-term care are a direct result of this government’s scandal, waste and mismanagement, which is resulting in a loss of $11.4 billion every year just to pay the costs to service the debt. This money would be enough to cover the cost of hiring extra nurses and personal support workers, providing an additional four hours of care and matching the 32,500 seniors on the wait list with a bed.

The needs of our elderly patients and caregivers must become a priority for Ontario. We need to act now and honour them with the care, services, support and dignity that they need and deserve. The government can start by committing to 15,000 new long-term care beds in five years and 30,000 over 10 years.

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk