THUNDER BAY – Open Letter to All Candidates: With the provincial election less than 3 weeks away, voters are thinking more closely about the services they receive from government for the taxes we pay. Those of us who are a little older, or who have elderly relatives or friends, or care for a family member with a disability will be particularly interested in the issue of health care. In fact, with the dual policy challenges of caring for an aging population and managing growing provincial health budgets, it’s an issue that should concern all of us.
Our current health system is built on an outdated twentieth century model of care focused on institutions. When you are sick, you visit the local hospital; when you begin to have trouble taking care of yourself, you move into a long-term care facility. This model puts a strain on our hospitals and inflates waiting lists for long-term care homes.
Ontarians want to remain in their homes and in their communities for as long as possible – close to family, friends and familiar surroundings. This provides greater comfort and independence, and allows them to retain their dignity.
An Angus Reid Poll shows Ontarians want more investments in home and community care:
· 59% agree new funding is better spent on these preventative services rather than facilities with full-time nursing care
· 62% believe non-profit home and community support services deserve to be prioritized equally alongside long-term care facilities and hospitals
Many people lying in hospital beds or sitting on waiting lists for long-term care homes don’t require round the clock medical care. They just need help with things like bathing, household tasks, transportation to medical appointments or respite for their family caregivers. In fact, it’s far more cost effective to help people stay healthy at home with community support services than sick in institutions.
It’s time for serious discussion on the future of health care. We need significant policy commitments from all political parties. We’re calling on all candidates to ensure the value of home and community care is on the provincial election agenda.
Here is our position:
· More services in the home and community for seniors and people with disabilities are a compassionate, cost-effective solution to our health care challenges.
· Community programs that keep people engaged and active in their neighbourhoods are important elements of a true health prevention strategy.
· Community services such as respite for family caregivers, supportive housing, assisted living, personal support and independence training, housekeeping, meal preparation, and full accessibility to services and information are examples of vital, practical tools that help people remain at home rather than in expensive institutions.
· No one should be denied access to home and community support services because they cannot afford it.
· Local planning focused on the needs of individuals and their families is a critical element to the organization of health care.
· Local accountability is crucial to the successful delivery of community services.
· Local planning bodies must take into account the perspective of “on the ground” home and community care organizations, and the people they serve.
We encourage candidates and policy makers to think strategically. Creativity and innovation are required to meet our current and future health care challenges. Investing in home and community support services now will save government money in the future.
We expect our politicians to listen carefully. Please reinforce these messages in support of home and community support services.
(Corporate Development Manager, Wesway)
Chair, Northwest Community Support Services Network