Yesterday Health Minister Deb Matthews announced the first specific initiatives following the release of Dr. Samir Sinha’s summary of recommendations for Ontario’s Senior Strategy.
You may have missed the headlines largely because it mostly attracted a big shrug, aside from our colleagues at SEIU. They issued a news release to praise the offer of additional training for 200 personal support workers (PSWs) to help these workers provide support for seniors with dementia and challenging behaviors. There is no denying it is at least a step in the right direction. Nobody knows exactly how many PSWs there are in the province – estimates range from a low of 60,000 to a high of 100,000. There are said to be 26,000 PSWs working just in the home care sector. When we saw the offer to train 200, our first reaction was to wonder whether some zeros were missing?
The Minister did also make a less specific commitment to improve resident safety, quality of care and abuse prevention through new staff training and development. Let’s hope it’s on a much larger scale than their plan for PSWs.
The announcement also called for a 50 per cent expansion of the number of short-stay beds in long-term care to help transition seniors from hospital. While that may sound very impressive, the actual numbers amount to just 250 more beds, and we’re still waiting to find out whether these are new licensed beds or merely being carved out of the existing stock of about 76,000 long-term care beds in Ontario. Dr. Sinha had suggested to the Toronto Star that the number of nursing home beds needs to triple over the next 20 years. That means Deb Matthews needs to announce something more on the scale of 7,600 new beds per year to make that happen.
Earlier this week we reported Thunder Bay was in a bed crisis and was looking for alternate care for 86 ALC patients. That’s just one hospital out of more than 150 that may be looking for these 250 beds.