Healthcare System too Dependent on Acute Care and Long-Term Care Facilities

February 24, 2012 – The Ontario healthcare system relies too heavily on acute care and long-term care facilities, according to a report prepared for the Ontario Ministry of Health.

Dr. David Walker, the author of the report, details 32 final recommendations, urging that the healthcare system must undergo a fundamental redesign, shifting towards more community-oriented resources, and implementing measures that will ensure that older Canadians’ needs are identified and addressed with the right supports.

Currently, the expensive and limited acute care hospital beds and resources are being used for patients who are simply waiting to be discharged to a more appropriate care setting. The healthcare system gives little consideration to whether a patient is able to recover or be cared for at home or in the community and outside of hospitals and long-term care facilities. As Dr. Walker points out, “[t]he acute care hospital is not designed to meet a patient’s restorative, supportive or rehabilitative needs, but has conversely been shown to advance functional deterioration and place patients at significant risk of hospital-related infections, falls and other adverse events.”

Patients worsen as they wait and are more likely to need access to long-term care beds as a result. This is a systemic pattern of using inadequate and inappropriate resources and straining an acute care hospital system that is expensive and already facing capacity issues.

As the population of older Canadians grows, these hospital capacity issues will only worsen if resources continue to be misdirected. This report identifies six transformational pillars of care that will help improve access to the right care:

  1. Care for the older population should be made a priority for primary care providers for early identification and management of high-risk frail seniors;
  2. Services should be better integrated and gaps bridged to strengthen the continuum of community care with use of group home models of care and “virtual wards”;
  3. Special needs patients should have equitable access to a integrated continuum of care;
  4. A philosophy of “assessing and restoring” patient functioning, and providing access to appropriate homecare supports or short-term/transitional Assess and Restore programs;
  5. Hospitals should follow “Senior Friendly” care principles along with more effective discharge planning and bed-use management;
  6. Long-term care facilities should, in-part, develop restorative, transitional, and respite care programs.

The Walker Report Recommendations reaffirm CARP’s long-standing advocacy on health reform. Provincial governments must move towards health systems and practices that meet the highest standards of care for an aging population while also limiting expenses. The answer is home-based care.

Between the Walker Report, the recently released Drummond Report, and CARP’s advocacy, there is no denying that home based care is both the right and affordable place to begin enacting reforms.

To Read the Full Report, Click here

To read the Drummond Report, Click here