Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Changes to Homecare in Ontario

It is no secret that many are frustrated with government funded home care services citing issues with waiting lists, limited hours and service provision. So much so that there was a government-commissioned report on the subject that was released in the early part of 2015. At long last our province is attempting to assist with these issues and has announced some interesting changes that they are piloting. This is interesting news for elderly or almost elderly Ontarians and I for one, will be anxious to see the results. In a nutshell they are planning on infusing money into the system ($750 million over 3 years) and allowing 'self-directed funding' for home care provision. The theory is that people can then use their allotment to hire the care they most need and the care providers they want to work with.

In theory, this seems like a plan that might alleviate wait lists and allow for better service to recipients but until its properly tested, the glitches will not be known. I wonder how many new home care agencies will pop up with the promise of new business, and how many good agencies will be challenged by the loss of home care contracts. I also wonder if its an attempt for the government to 'wash their hands' of the problems by taking away their responsibility to fix what is broken and simply give responsibility for it to overtaxed families or seniors who may not have the wherewithal to organize their own care properly or be easily subjected to financial abuse.

There is promise of a model of 'bundled care' for those discharged from hospital so there is continuity between hospital and home, but one wonders how well orchestrated that will be and if staffing and funding to hospitals will be increased in a direct way to accommodate this change properly.

Will the money they are putting into this plan be enough to sustain people who are on a limited income and require assistance at home? What will happen if they use up their funding and still need care but can't afford to pay for it? Will it decrease the pressure on the long-term care system or make it worse?

By no means do I want to be critical before such a plan has gotten off the ground. I think its a good thing that money is being infused into the system earmarked for home care. And I think its good that they recognize that the system we have now is broken and not sustainable. They are clearly finding ways to think 'outside the box'. But I also worry that this system will only work for a few rather than the majority and that it's only a small piece of the puzzle. We still need our government to look at funding more than simply long-term care and, at innovative ways to care for our ageing population beyond what currently exists.

I suppose everything takes time. We will simply have to wait and see what the pilot projects report back and hope that the kinks are ironed out well before it is rolled out in a big way.

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