Kitchener-Waterloo

More investment needed for long-term care beds in Waterloo region: NDP

The provincial NDP is calling on the government to create long-term care beds in Waterloo region because it says there hasn’t been a single space created locally in three years.

PCs say 148 new beds coming to Waterloo region, another 209 to be redeveloped

NDP MPPs Catherine Fife and Laura Mae Lindo are calling on the government for more long-term care beds, a fast tracking of long-term care applications and a new vision for home care. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

There have been no new long-term care beds created in Kitchener's two hospitals in the last three years, NDP MPPs say as they called on the province to invest to get thousands of people off wait lists.

MPP Catherine Fife, who represents Waterloo, says as of Nov. 2019 about 2,700 people in the region were on the wait list for long-term care.

"We have people in beds at St. Mary's and Grand River [Hospital] who should be in long-term care and that compounds hallway medicine and adds additional pressure to our emergency room services," Fife said Thursday.

Fife, along with Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo, were in downtown Kitchener Thursday for the budget committee public consultations.

Fife said the crisis in hallway health care was evident when she visited Grand River Hospital this month.

"They were taking blood from patients in the waiting room. I've never seen that before in my life," said Fife.

Hallway health care

Lindo says she's been hearing from people in the community who can't get a long-term care bed.

"We've had situations where a 91-year-old was waiting for a long-term care spot. Her children are calling our office crying, trying to figure out where they can place their mom," Lindo said.

CBC News published a story earlier this week that showed some of Ontario's biggest hospitals are filled beyond capacity nearly every day.

Guelph General Hospital president and CEO Marianne Walker called hallway medicine "our new norm."

Walker said the hospital is also dealing with a rise in patients who are older and have more complex needs.

Grand River Hospital vice-president Bonnie Camm said hallways and "unconventional" spaces are a reality for them, too.

"We don't like to have to put patients, of course, in the hallway or in unconventional spaces, but we do our best to try to provide the most comfortable places possible," Camm said.

Last year, the government announced it would add 15,000 new beds to the long-term care system. But the province's Financial Accountability Officer Peter Weltman found that wouldn't be enough to stop wait lists from growing.

'Hard decisions'

Donna Skelly, the parliamentary assistant to the minister of economic development, was also at the budget committee meeting in Kitchener on Thursday.

When asked how she would respond to the concerns raised by local NDP MPPs, she said "there will never be enough money, enough time, enough resources to meet everybody's needs."

"We as government have to make some hard decisions ... the solutions won't come tomorrow. It's going to take time but we're working towards it," she said.

In a statement to CBC, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton said the statements made by the NDP MPPs shows they "fail to understand the issues facing long-term care in Ontario and continue to play politics with our province's most vulnerable people."

She noted the previous Liberal government created just 611 new long-term care beds from 2011 to 2018 — a number confirmed in Weltman's report last October.

"Our government has invested over $72 million more last year than the previous year into long-term care and has already allocated over 148 new beds and 209 beds for redevelopment in the Waterloo region alone," Fullerton said.

The 148 new beds were announced in October 2018 by Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris. At the time, the province said The Village of Winston Park in Kitchener will get 97 of the new beds and Saint Luke's Place in Cambridge will get the remaining 51. No date for when the beds would be opened was given.

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