Home Care Ontario asking provincial government for additional $600M in funding

Home Care Ontario, an organization representing home care service providers, is asking the provincial government for $600 million more in annual funding. The boost is one of 14 recommendations published in a new report Wednesday morning.

The organization also launched an online campaign to raise awareness of their funding needs

The report, released Wednesday, lists 14 recommendations for how the province can improve home care. (iStock)

Home Care Ontario, an organization representing home-care service providers, is asking the provincial government for $600 million more in annual funding. The boost is one of 14 recommendations published in a report released Wednesday morning.

The organization also launched an online awareness campaign, describing what it calls an "urgent need" for more home care in Ontario.

"We hear more and more about the fact that people aren't getting the home care that they need and want," said the CEO of Home Care Ontario, Sue VanderBent. "Home care's a system that's been under-invested in for several years now, almost a decade."

Home care spending

About 28,000 professional caregivers provide home care to 730,000 Ontarians every year, according to Home Care Ontario. The number of people requiring services continues to grow.

"We're seeing more complex care that's needed for patients, and we've been trying to do it on the same amount of money," VanderBent said.

Home Care Ontario launched a website and a Facebook page Wednesday to raise awareness of their campaign. (Home Care Ontario)

The report, titled Home Care For Me & You, states the home care sector currently receives five per cent of the provincial health-care budget, which comes to $2.7 billion annually.

That's not enough, according to VanderBent, and the lack of funds means home-care visit times are reduced from hours to 30 minutes, sometimes even 15 minutes.

"This is not good care. It doesn't help us to really deliver the kind of care that somebody might need," she said. "That's when we see people taking their loved ones to the ER in desperation."

Sue VanderBent is CEO of Home Care Ontario. She was previously director of Social Work and Professional Practice at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. (Home Care Ontario)

When contacted by CBC Toronto, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) spokesperson David Jensen said the province is investing $100 million more in home care supports and services in 2017-18.

That's in addition to an annual five per cent increase to home and community care funds since 2013, he said.

Those numbers still don't appease VanderBent, who said home-care resources have stagnated for over a decade, while demand, care complexity and strain on the system have increased.

"While home care resources have increased as the health-care budget has gone up, it has never grown past five per cent of the total health care budget," she said. 

"Under-investment in this vital pillar of Ontario's health care system has meant a rationing of care and growing wait lists, professional caregivers doing more with fewer resources, which leads to burnout, overcrowding in our hospitals, and a lesser patient experience." 

The increased funding requested by the organization would fund nine million more personal support worker visits, 5.1 million more nursing visits and increased capacity to meet demand for other services, according to the report.

'It's nearly impossible'

Debbie Jensen, who has worked as a personal support worker in York Region for seven years, sees seven to 12 clients every day.

"You're supposed to get them out of bed and dressed and have their breakfast ready for them in 15 minutes and it's nearly impossible," she said.

Jensen says if home care visits are too short, clients can often get agitated, especially if they can't move very quickly. (CBC)

On average, she gets about one hour with each client, but Jensen says even that typically isn't enough time.

"You're supposed to do physiotherapy. You're supposed to do their catheter. You're supposed to do a bath for them, or a shower, or a sponge bath. One hour is just not enough to get everything done safely."​

Jensen, left, says a lot of the time, her job also requires her to clean areas of her client's homes or help them to do their make-up and hair. When asked if she believed her sector was underfunded, she said, 'if it wasn't then we would have the time that we need.' (Ontario Personal Support Worker Association)

Jensen said she still loves her job, but an increase in funding would mean a lot.

"It would mean safety for the [personal support workers]. It would mean safety for the clients. It would mean less stress on the family," she said.

Hospitals feeling the pinch

Without an increase in funding, VanderBent said home care workers won't be able to help lift the burden on Ontario's hospitals.

"If our health-care systems and our hospital systems are overcrowded and cannot discharge their patients who are not actually needing acute care ... then that impacts everybody," she said. 

"Our hospitals are dependent on the home-care system to do a good job, and we want to do that good job." 

Home care workers can be personal support workers, nurses or therapists. They deliver a variety of services to clients in their homes, from bathing and dressing, to tending a wound or administering therapy. (Corbis)

Home Care Ontario will continue their advocacy campaign throughout the spring, ahead of the 2018 provincial budget.

The health ministry says it's open to hearing ideas.

Among the other recommendations listed in the report are:

  • Reducing bureaucracy and added costs to the home care system.
  • Beginning a recruitment campaign to hire skilled caregivers. 
  • Implementing a tax credit for Ontarians who purchase care from reputable, legitimate providers.