Wynne announces 5,000 more long-term care beds over 4 years

The Ontario Liberals have pledged to add 5,000 more long-term care beds over four years, but one critic says that's not enough to fix the province's chronic shortage.

One critic says that isn't enough to fix a chronic shortage that's causing hospital backlogs

Premier Kathleen Wynne, right, takes in an exercise class at the Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre with fitness instructor Sharon Beaudet Tuesday. Wynne announced the Aging with Confidence plan for seniors, which includes 5,000 long term care beds over four years and an average of four hours per day of nursing or personal care support. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Ontario Liberals have pledged to add 5,000 more long-term care beds over four years, but one critic says that's not enough to fix the province's chronic shortage.

Premier Kathleen Wynne unveiled a $155-million seniors plan in Hamilton Tuesday. That plan includes 5,000 beds over four years, and 30,000 beds over the next 10 years, should the Liberals be elected next June.

The plan, called Aging with Confidence, would also see four hours of hands-on nursing or personal support for seniors in long-term care homes. It also includes $15 million to boost "naturally occurring" retirement communities where seniors already live.

Kathleen Wynne, left, takes an exercise class with instructor Sharon Beaudet at the Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre on Tuesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

"We know we need to create more long term care beds to meet the fast growing demand," Wynne said. 

The province also needs to "ensure there's faster placement for the people who are in crisis already and are waiting in hospital."

Monique Taylor, Hamilton Mountain NDP MPP, attended Wynne's announcement at the Sackville Hill Seniors Recreation Centre. Wynne's commitment isn't enough to fix a growing crisis, she said. 

"We have people in hospital beds in hallways because of the lack of beds," Taylor said. "We have 25,000 people on wait list right now for long term care in Ontario. Five thousand beds over four years is not going to fix that."

It's a province-wide issue. Wait times for Ontario patients admitted to long term care beds through hospital emergency rooms hit their highest level this summer since the province started keeping track nine years ago.

There are long wait lists across the health care "continuum," Ontario Hospital Association president Anthony Dale said in September. "The root of today's capacity challenge is that far too many frail elderly patients can't get access to the care they really need outside the hospital setting," he said.

The announcement also included a free annual high-dose influenza vaccine starting in 2018, a new website for seniors and more volunteer mentorships.

Wynne, centre, answers media questions with Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health, and Dipika Damerla, Minister of Seniors Affairs. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

While in Hamilton, Wynne also visited Art Aggregate, an economic fairness roundtable discussion and visited Saint Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church.

On Monday, CBC News reported that the Wynne government is creating a new agency called Personal Support Services Ontario that will start to deliver home care in the spring to some clients in three regions of the province. 

CBC Toronto's Mike Crawley wrote that the move would mean personal support workers (PSWs) become provincial employees. It also has the potential to take a significant portion of the $2.5 billion in annual publicly-funded home care away from the for-profit and not-for-profit agencies currently providing it.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca