Private health-care businesses on P.E.I. wish more services publicly-funded

Private home-care businesses have existed for decades, but they are not accessible to everyone — the people who run the businesses says better funding would help them help more people.

P.E.I residents can buy their own home-care and health-care services, but it's costly

Carol Lutz walks with the assistance of physiotherapist Robyn Thompson. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Private health-care services have existed for decades on P.E.I., but not everyone can afford to hire people to come into their homes. 

Carol Lutz hires private physiotherapist Robyn Thompson twice a week to help her get stronger and learn to walk again after having a stroke.

"I was told to get it out of my head, that I was never going to walk but I'm trying to prove them wrong," said Lutz. 

Thompson recently started her own business — Go to You Health — and travels throughout P.E.I. to provide physiotherapy for private clients. One visit costs between $120 and $130.

Physiotherapist Robyn Thompson travels throughout P.E.I. to do physiotherapy with people in their homes. She said her service may free up space in the public system. (Laura Meader/CBC)

'Room for both' public and private

"There is a need for this type of business on P.E.I.," said Thompson. "I think we have to be careful how far we go with private versus public but I certainly think there's room for both." 

Thompson said she would be open to the province contracting her out and funding what she is doing for clients, but at this point it's a private service paid for by the clients themselves. 

Lutz is actually a resident of Beach Grove Home, a long-term care home with 130 residents, but said she couldn't get regular one-on-one appointments there. 

Health P.E.I. said Beach Grove Home has a .4-physiotherapist position which is currently vacant. 

Wanting to help 'more Islanders'

Thompson said her main goal is to keep the older population active and help them stay in their own homes. 

She said some people may have insurance that could pay for her service, or families with higher income who may be able to afford it, and that may reduce wait lists in the public system. 

"I think the more people we can get working whether in private and public, the more Islanders we can help, that's really all we want," she said. 

Sandra Henderson, left, is a resident care worker who owns a home-care business. She says she would like to see more public funding to help more people be able to access the type of care she provides. (Laura Meader/CBC)

'I've seen the need'

Sandra Henderson is a resident care worker who owns her own home-care business called Freedom First. She said Islanders can have difficulty getting the care they need through the public system. 

"I've seen the need out there for people who want to stay at home, who are able to stay at home with just a little help," said Henderson.

She has also worked in the public health-care system and said at times she worked short-staffed and didn't have the time she would have liked to spend with residents. 

Henderson would like to see increased public funding to help more people access the type of care she provides.She charges $30 per hour and said it feels terrible when someone doesn't end up hiring her because of the cost.

"There's nothing I can do, it's out of my hands," she said. "It is a problem, it is a issue, that's why I believe there should be more funding for more home care and support."

Henderson and her client Alan Laughland in his home. (Laura Meader/CBC )

More staff being hired, says Health P.E.I. 

Health P.E.I. reports it has about 100 people on its waiting list for publicly-funded provincial home care, and that wait is usually several weeks long. 

"We don't have an extensive wait list," said Andrew MacDougall, executive director of community health and seniors' care for Health P.E.I. 

He said about 2,400 Islanders are using provincial home care, and some would like to have more hours. 

"We're not under any pretence that we are providing everything that's required necessarily all the time, but we certainly have made major inroads over the last couple of years," said MacDougall.

Service has improved and more people are getting help, he said, and Health P.E.I. plans to hire 30 new staff in the next year to expand the service and officials are looking at ways that private health services may be able to get some funding. 

Better plan needed, says Opposition

Michele Beaton is the health critic for the Official Opposition and said government needs to invest more in the public system to help keep people at home longer.

Beaton said in some cases, people are not getting the hours of care they need. 

"Health care needs to be available to everybody, it should not cost Islanders to get good health outcomes," she said.

Beaton said the fact that private services are available is a sign the public health-care system is failing. 

"We have to stop underfunding it, and we have to start investing in it."