Ontario hopes to ease pressures on health care by increasing publicly covered surgeries at private clinics, waiving exam and registration fees for internationally trained nurses and sending patients waiting for a long-term care bed in a home they didn’t choose.
On Thursday, Health Minister Sylvia Jones announced a plan to hire more medical professionals, free up hospital beds and reduce surgery waiting lists. The plan comes as nursing shortages have shut down emergency departments across the province throughout the summer for hours or days at a time.
With respect to long-term care, the government plans to introduce legislation today that will allow patients waiting for a bed to be transferred to a “temporary” home while waiting for a place in their favorite home. He’s also taking 300 beds that had been used for COVID-19 isolation and making them available to people on waiting lists, and says it’s possible to do that with an additional 1,000 beds from six months here.
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has confirmed to CBC Toronto that 200 people who have been hospitalized for six months waiting for LTC beds will be moved over the next three months, with a total of 1,300 moved by March 2023. .
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However, Long-Term Care Minister Paul Calandra said the legislation would not force anyone who does not want to leave hospital to go, and it would make “no changes to the waiting list priority”.
“The changes allow us to continue that conversation to explain to someone who is in a hospital why their needs can be met in a long-term care home,” Calandra said.
The province’s plan also mentions “mandatory guidelines used by placement coordinators to ensure patients continue to stay close to a partner, spouse, loved ones or friends.”
Changes won’t fix core problem, critics say
But NDP health critic France Gélinas said the province would be better off bolstering the home care system with more full-time personal support workers.
“Now hospitals will have the right to put a ton of pressure on you and your family to move you to the first available bed, not the bed of your choice,” she said.
“It’s disrespectful, it’s not how health care should be.”
Gélinas suggested that the first beds available would likely be “in a private, for-profit home”, some of which have been subject to 2020 scathing military report after enduring some of the province’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks.
In a statement, Lisa Levin, CEO of AdvantAge, an association of nonprofit elder care organizations, said she is concerned about the closure of isolation beds at this time. According to the province, there were 181 long-term care homes in active outbreaks of COVID-19 as of August 13.
“We need to ensure that sufficient safeguards exist to protect these residents from COVID-19,” Levin said.
The province also announced plans to invest up to $57.6 million over three years to increase the number of nurse practitioners working in long-term care homes.
While new investments are providing significant resources and funding to the sector, Donna Duncan, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, says addressing the day-to-day staffing challenges faced by all is not enough. homes, especially those in rural areas and remote communities.
“To support safe admissions from hospital, we need to ensure our homes have the health human resources and other human resources in place, especially as we enter the anticipated flu/COVID season d ‘autumn,” Duncan wrote.
The association says it represents nearly 70 per cent of Ontario’s 630 long-term care homes, in a mix of private, not-for-profit, charitable and municipal settings. Duncan says the association faces an LTC waiting list of nearly 40,000, with seniors “needing quality care close to their loved ones and communities.”
“All healthcare sectors are facing severe labor shortages and we are all looking to hire from the same pool of available healthcare professionals,” Duncan said.
Increased role of private sector services
The province’s plan further defines a role for services provided by the private sector but covered by the public sector, with the government saying it will invest more to increase surgeries at existing children’s hospitals and private clinics covered by OHIP . It is also considering options to further increase surgical capacity by increasing the number of such procedures performed at “independent healthcare facilities”.
Jones said Ontario needs to be “bold, innovative and creative” when looking for ways to improve the health care system.
“There are some who will fight for the status quo no matter what,” she told a news conference announcing the plan. “They’re ideologically opposed to change or improvements. We won’t accept that. We can’t accept that. People want better health care.”
Jones did not answer directly when asked if she would consider allowing more private clinics in Ontario.
“Health care will continue to be provided to the people of Ontario through the use of your OHIP card,” she said.
Nurses’ association opposes more privatization
Cathryn Hoy, president of the Ontario Nurses Association, criticized the plan to increase services in private clinics.
“It’s a blatant move that will line investors’ pockets, nothing more,” she said in a statement.
“The evidence is clear: privatizing health care results in poorer health outcomes for our patients and results in much higher overhead costs that will be paid for by taxpayers. Ontario is plunging into a privatization that will only benefit shareholders.
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Hoy called it “puzzling” that the plan also outlines measures to support emergency department doctors, but not nurses.
“The government has missed a huge opportunity here to bolster nurses’ pay as a key to retention and recruitment to curb further closures,” she said.
Ontario is expanding and implementing a range of programs to strengthen hospital staff in northern and rural communities, such as having emergency room physicians support and mentor rural emergency room physicians and connecting medical residents to those in northern and rural emergencies.
In a statement, Liberal health critic Dr Adil Shamji called the plan a “series of empty promises” that showed the government “has learned nothing from the pandemic”.
“Rather than ignoring its responsibility to strengthen our publicly funded health care system by asking the for-profit sector to solve the problems,” the MPP said, the Minister of Health “must provide real solutions that address the root causes of the extreme pressure facing our healthcare system.”
Viable solutions include creating “a strong nursing workforce by repealing Bill 124,” Shamji said, as well as increased funding for community and primary care operations that would reduce emergency room visits. . Until then, he said, “this crisis will continue to spin out of control.”
Ontario will cover the costs of some nurses
Meanwhile, the province will temporarily cover the exam, application and registration fees for internationally trained and retired nurses, saving them up to $1,500.
Jones said she is today awaiting a plan from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, as well as the College of Nurses of Ontario, on how they intend to fast-track applications of those professionals who are still waiting to be certified and licensed in Ontario.
The college of nursing’s plan is to temporarily enroll thousands of internationally educated nurses.
The province’s plan also includes modifying a program that can deploy full-time nurses to multiple hospitals in a region, and expanding a program for mid-career or retired nurses to mentor new nurses.
“A lot of things are part of that plan and they’re not finished,” Jones told reporters.