Cuts to Hamilton long-term care homes mean a shortfall of $550K next year
Resident fees are also increasing by 2.3 per cent
Families and staff at Hamilton's city-funded long-term care homes are pleading with the Ontario government to stop cuts they say will hurt their loved ones.
Doug Ford is planning to cut two funding programs, meaning a $34 million blow to long-term care facilities across the province.
The city of Hamilton will have $140,000 less funding for their two facilities this year and $550,000 less funding in the next.
The province has also raised residents' co-payments by 2.3 per cent. For a middle class senior, this equates to $500 more a year. Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton said that this increase is "tied through regulation to Canada's inflation index."
Alongside staff and family members, Andrea Horwath, leader of the official opposition and MPP for Hamilton Centre, raised her concerns about how the cuts will affect quality of care.
"These cuts are absolutely dangerous," she said at a media event Friday outside Macassa Lodge. "Asking long-term care homes to do more with less is inviting misery."
Hamilton operates Macassa on the Mountain and Wentworth Lodge in Dundas.
The funding programs planned to be eliminated include the high wage transition fund, which helps maintain staffing level and a living wage, and the structural compliance fund, which helps maintain facilities and keep them up-to-date. Cuts have been postponed to give facilities time to adjust, with the latest date being October 1.
The city says in a report to councillors it has relied on the funding programs to maintain the homes and fund front-line workers.
Though the province gave a 1.7 per cent increase to long-term care funding in the 2019-2020 budget, the city of Hamilton report says that this increase was below inflation and below amounts received in the past to keep up with food and labour costs. Combined with the elimination of funding, the report admits it has the "potential to impact care levels."
The report added that there has been an increase in the number of "complex residents" admitted to long-term care centres. It says that reducing staffing levels to deal with funding pressures would not be a "prudent solution" and could comprise care and safety.
Shannon Estey, a personal support worker who has worked at Macassa and Wentworth Lodges, called on the province for more funding.
"What message [do these cuts] send to us and the residents we care for?" she asked. "How can anyone look into the eyes of the people who are in the last stages of their life and tell them to wait?"
Horwath was joined by NDP MPPs, including Paul Miller (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek), Sandy Shaw (Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas) and Monique Taylor (Hamilton Mountain).
In a statement to CBC, Fullerton accused the NDP of "fear-mongering". She said that the government recognizes that long-term care provides Ontarians a vital service and emphasized it was committed to ensuring a high quality of life and available space.
She also stated that government is investing $72 million in long-term care and has committed $1.75 billion to building 15,000 new long-term care beds.
Lisa Burton is raising her voice to fight for her father, who is a resident at Wentworth Lodge with baseline dementia. She said that a fall at home and a broken hip led the family down "the rabbit hole from Hell."
Burton commends the staff for their long hours and hard work, but says they're often overloaded. Burton explained that her dad can wait anywhere from five minutes to an hour for a call bell to be answered.
"All we want is our families to be loved and looked after," she said. "The staff there are fabulous, they do a great job — they just don't have enough hands."
Since Burton lives farther away, it's often her mom that's around. She said it makes her nervous that her mom might try to step in and help her dad. And if he were to fall, this means there's a chance that both her parents could end up hurt.
Burton lives on a farm and said she wishes she could bring her dad to live with her at home. But accommodations and an in-home care worker piles up in costs. With resident fees increasing, the stress is high.
"It comes down to all being about money," she said. "And it shouldn't have to."
Burton wants the provincial government to know what it's like inside the facilities.
"They really need to come and walk in one of [the staff members'] shoes," she said. "Come and do the care...and see how hard it is. Maybe then they would get an understanding."