Nursing home group wants more beds, bigger construction subsidy

The largest group of long-term care operators in Ontario is calling for a dramatic increase in spending on nursing homes.

Call for investment comes after CBC News reveals long-term care homes are threatening to leave Toronto

There are 32,000 people on the waiting list for spots in nursing homes in Ontario, and the list is growing by 15 per cent annually, says the Ontario Long Term Care Association. (Shutterstock)

The largest group of long-term care operators in Ontario is calling for a dramatic increase in spending on nursing homes. 

The province should create 10,000 new long-term care beds in the next five years and boost its subsidy for older nursing homes to rebuild, says the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) in its pre-budget submission to the government, released Wednesday. 

The document, called More Care, Better Care indicates that 32,000 people are on the waiting list for spots in long-term care homes in Ontario, a number that is growing by 15 per cent annually.

"I'm optimistic that we're going to see some movement," said Candace Chartier, chief executive of the association, during a speech to reveal the budget proposal. "Hopefully we'll see more beds, more staff, more investment into the care that we need to look after our seniors." 

Hazel McCallion, 96, the former mayor of Mississauga, was at the launch and endorsed the association's push. 

"The province has got to start making some decisions on long-term care," said McCallion. "The need for long-term care is building every day in the province and if the beds are not provided, it's going to become a crisis situation." 

Candace Chartier, CEO of the Ontario Long Term Care Association, revealed her group's budget submission during a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in downtown Toronto. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

The association is calling for a 24 per cent increase in the provincial subsidy to older nursing homes that need to redevelop to meet new Ministry of Health standards for space and facilities. 

More than 300 such homes across Ontario are slated to be rebuilt by 2025, but so far, says the report, "progress is less than slow." The association says the size of the subsidy is "one of the biggest issues keeping long-term care operators from moving ahead with redevelopment."

The current subsidy works out to $19.4 million for an average 128-bed nursing home, to be paid out over a 25-year period. 

CBC News reported Tuesday that the operators of eight long-term care homes in Toronto with nearly 1,300 residents have told the province they intend to shut down and move their operations elsewhere because the subsidy is not enough, given the cost of rebuilding in the city. 

Chartier tried to downplay the risk of the homes leaving.

"We know the cost of land and availability of land and you name it are issues, but we think we can come up with some solutions," she said. "What about the vacant school land? What about lease-to-own?"

No nursing home in Ontario can relocate without the permission of the health minister. (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Health Minister Eric Hoskins is reviewing the OLTCA's proposals. 

"The ministry does a lot of work with the Long Term Care Association to forecast what our needs might be with a growing and aging population and how we can best serve those needs," Hoskins told reporters at Queen's Park on Wednesday. 

He said during question period that no nursing home can move without his permission. "Whether that is even within the same community, in the same location, I need to approve it in writing," said Hoskins. 

He said no long-term care home in Toronto has formally applied to the Health Ministry to move.

The eight homes that indicated they intend to leave the city were responding to a survey by the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), a regional administration agency that works under the ministry.

The agency considers six other nursing homes, with more than 500 residents, to be "at risk" of leaving the city. Officials at Toronto Central LHIN are declining to identify the homes.