Ontario Budget Will Improve Home Care Delivery

April 3, 2012 – Older Ontarians can look forward to positive action and investment on the home and continuing care front, amidst the reported doom and gloom of Ontario’s austerity budget. The centrepiece of last week’s 2012 Ontario budget as it affects older Ontarians is the comprehensive attention paid to “Providing the Right Care, at the Right Time, at the Right Place”.

Despite capping growth in total healthcare spending at 2.1 percent per year – an unprecedented amount and even lower than the ominous Drummond Report recommended – the budget allows for more investment in home and community care.

Ensuring patients receive “the right care in the right setting” has long been a central advocacy issue for CARP and now the Ontario government appears to be moving in the right direction at the right time.

The budget concedes what most people already take for granted, that “it costs taxpayers more to provide seniors’ care in a long-term care home than it does to support seniors who live in their own home or with a family member”.

Additionally, the cost of a hospital acute care bed held by an Alternative Level of Care (ALC) patient is expensive to the system and undesirable to the patient. “Providing community care to treat these patients at home or in a long-term care home makes good health care sense, will better meet the needs of patients, and is fiscally responsible.”

CARP has long called for a comprehensive strategy to ensure a seamless continuum of care starting from a post acute episode or diagnosis and continuing to end of life. These budget measures clearly recognize the importance and the preference of staying in one’s own home as long as possible in this journey.

Also important is the provision of care coordinators, investment in chronic care services and moving forward on the Home Renovation Tax credit to help people remain in their homes. Together with patient-centred funding, these measures represent a shifting of health care funding from the institutions to community sector which would further the cause of supporting the Aging at Home Strategy.

However, there will still be a 2.8% increase in funding for long-term care including 1% in direct care costs. No new long term care beds are expected beyond those previously announced but the increased funding will pay for renovating existing beds and expanding convalescent care facilities within nursing homes.

Specifically, the Ontario government promises to make real changes to the way care is delivered, including:

  • increasing investments in home care and community services by an average of 4 per cent annually for the next three years or $526 million per year by 2014–15, to better support those seniors and other Ontarians who could benefit from care provided in the community;
  • development of a new Seniors Strategy that will expand house calls, increase access to home care, and provide improved care coordination;
  • care coordinators to provide seniors, particularly those with complex conditions, with guidance by working closely with all health care providers. Seniors will be directed to the care they need, in the appropriate setting. This will improve the coordination of care for seniors living at home and help avoid unnecessary hospital admissions;
  • investments in chronic care services provided in the community to ease pressure on long-term care homes’ waiting lists and help reduce the number of ALC patients in hospitals;
  • moving forward with the proposed Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit to help seniors adapt their homes to meet their needs as they age and allowing them to live at home and independently for as long as possible, provided this Budget is passed by the legislature;
  • and building on the significant investments made in long-term care since 2003 to create capacity in the sector, increasing overall long-term care home funding by 2.8 per cent in 2012–13. Included in this growth is a one per cent increase in direct care costs for long-term care home residents. The government will help the sector manage this growth by providing home operators with greater flexibility to pay for services from within their current funding structure.

To read the full Ontario Budget measures targeted at seniors, click here

To read CARP’s Homecare Backgrounder, click here