QUEEN’S PARK – Dalton McGuinty has approved Mixed Martial Arts fighting for Ontario. Based on the salvos of shots being fired between Howard Hampton the Kenora Rainy River MPP and Bill Mauro the Thunder Bay Atikokan, it might have been just in time.
During Question Period at the Legislative Assembly, yesterday Hampton raised the case of an elderly Fort Frances resident who has been offered a long-term care bed in Terrace Bay, 550 kilometres from her home.
Today, Bill Mauro fired back. Hampton responded by releasing the letter sent to a constituent telling her to move to Terrace Bay. (Copy at bottom of article)
Here’s the transcript of the exchange between Hampton and Health Minister Deb Matthews from Question Period.
The transcript from today between Mauro and Matthews follows.
Mr. Howard Hampton: My question is for the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Mrs. S is a senior from Fort Frances and she currently has a respite care bed at Rainycrest Home for the Aged in Fort Frances. Two weeks ago, she received a letter from the North West Community Care Access Centre, telling her that a long-term-care bed is open to her in Terrace Bay. Terrace Bay is 550 kilometres, or seven hours, away from Fort Frances where her family and friends reside.
My question is this: Is this the McGuinty Liberals’ idea of quality long-term care for Ontario seniors? Send them 550 kilometres—seven hours—away from their family and friends?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Of course not. What I will do is undertake to look into this particular case. I do recall that some time ago the member opposite brought forward a case. When we actually looked into it, we discovered that the story was slightly different. So what I will do is undertake again to look into this particular case.
But of course, people who are in long-term care need to be close to the people who love them—their family members, their friends, their community. So I will undertake to look at this particular case.
As we are working to build capacity in long-term care, as we are looking to strengthen community supports so that people don’t have to go into long-term care, our focus is very much on services for the frailest and the seniors in our community. We will continue with that work and, as I say, I will happily look into this particular case.
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary?
Mr. Howard Hampton: The reality of this comes down to the government saying, “This isn’t happening,” but people continue to get these letters. People continue to be told, “If you want a long-term-care bed, you go 300 kilometres, you go 550 kilometres.”
The McGuinty government tells one story here in question period, but then when seniors are desperate they get quite another message from officialdom.
I simply want to ask the minister this—550 kilometres is the same as the distance from Toronto to Montreal. I don’t think the minister would tell people in Toronto, “If you want a long-term-care bed, go to Montreal.” I don’t think you would. The really sad part is, the local district service board has put forward a number of proposals for supportive housing, but the North West LHIN and the North West Community Care Access Centre—
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Minister?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: Actually, I completely agree with the member. It is not okay that a person who’s in a long-term-care home should be asked to move far away from friends and family. I will undertake to look into this particular situation.
We have a plan when it comes to long-term care and we are acting on that plan. We have opened over 8,000 new long-term-care beds. Just on the weekend, we opened a new long-term-care home in my community of London. We have plans to open almost 1,700 more beds across the province going forward. When it comes to long-term care, we have made enormous investments. We are spending now over $1 billion more than when we were elected.
We know there’s more work to do and we have a plan to get that work done. The member opposite has no plan when it comes to long-term care and, in fact, the initiatives that they are proposing would actually hurt the people who they are pretending to stand up for.
Mr. Bill Mauro: My question is to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. Yesterday, the member from Kenora–Rainy River brought up an issue in his riding. A senior in Fort Frances received a letter regarding new long-term-care beds in Terrace Bay. He stated, “Two weeks ago, she received a letter from the North West Community Care Access Centre, telling her that a long-term-care bed is open to her in Terrace Bay. Is this the McGuinty Liberals’ idea of quality long-term care for Ontario seniors? Send them 550 kilometres—seven hours—away from their family and friends? Could the minister please tell this House what this letter was all about and if people in this province are being forced to move farther away from their homes?”
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I would like to commend the member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan for being such a champion for his constituents. I want to make it very clear: This government does not force seniors to move far away from their loved ones to go into long-term care. We do our very best to keep them as close to home as possible. That is why we’ve opened 8,300 new long-term-care beds, including 22 beds in Terrace Bay, thanks to the member from Thunder Bay–Superior North. The CCAC was simply informing all people on their waiting list that there was a new option available. It is completely wrong to suggest that there was any forcing going on. This is what the letter says: “We have reviewed our long-term-care home waiting lists and are notifying all clients of the opening of this new long-term-care home. Please let us know whether or not you are interested in applying …Further, it says, “If you choose to apply.”
The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Supplementary?
Mr. Bill Mauro: I’m relieved, as I’m sure others are, to hear that this was simply a huge misinterpretation by the member. I understand how important quality care is for resident and their families. In my riding of Thunder Bay-Atikokan, I know that residents were very concerned in 2005 when the city of Thunder Bay announced they would no longer be operating two municipal long-term-care homes. Recognizing this challenge, the LHIN and the Ministry of Health worked with St. Joseph’s health care to develop the Centre of Excellence for Integrated Seniors’ Services. In response, our government is investing in new long-term-care home beds this centre, and I know that seniors will soon have greater access to health care services with the construction of this new facility. Could the minister please tell this House more about the centre and how it will benefit seniors in my riding?
Hon. Deborah Matthews: I’m very happy to report on the progress of the Centre of Excellence for Integrated Seniors’ Services in Thunder Bay. I’m very happy to report on the progress of the Centre of Excellence for Integrated Seniors’ Services in Thunder Bay. This facility will have 336 long-term-care beds, 109 of which are new beds and the rest are redeveloped; 132 supportive housing units, offering more choices to seniors. It will promote their independence so they can continue to live with dignity and with respect. The centre will respond to local populations’ increasing demand for seniors’ services, so they will also be able to provide community support services for an additional 150 clients and enhanced services for existing supportive housing units. This is a centre of excellence that will make a profound difference for the people of Thunder Bay and will have implications right across this province as we learn from the work that is happening in Northwestern Ontario.