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Canadians to government: Help keep seniors at home

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Canadians want to stay at home when get older, and they want the government to help.

The vast majority, 93%, of Canadians believe the country should adopt a national health-care strategy to keep seniors at home as long as possible, found a Canadian Medical Association report. And they say that strategy should involve lightening the burden on hospitals, hospices and long-term care facilities by keeping seniors at home longer.

“The results of this year’s CMA report card send a clear and direct message to policy-makers and public office holders that all levels of government need to act to address the demographic tsunami that is heading toward the health-care system,” said CMA president Dr. Anna Reid in a press release.

What’s more, most people think the country currently is doing a poor job at taking care of its seniors and isn’t ready for the growing population of elderly Canadians.

Less than half, 41%, believe facilities in their areas can handle the number of seniors who can’t stay at home.

Canadians are worried about their own futures, with 83% saying they’re concerned about health care in retirement, and 77% saying they’re worried about having access to high quality home care and long-term care.

“The anxiety Canadians have about health care in their so-called golden years is both real and well-founded,” Reid added. “Let there be no doubt that a national strategy for seniors health care should be a federal priority.”

The CMA surveyed 1,000 Canadians over 18 between July 17-26, with a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.

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CCAC health professionals are on strike Friday morning across Ontario, including London

A strike by nurses who co-ordinate home care has pushed overcrowded Ontario hospitals into uncharted waters that could strand patients in wards and backup emergency rooms, a leading hospital official says.

“We’re kind of entering unknown territory,” Windsor Regional CEO David Musyj said. “Extra minutes turn into extra hours, hours turn into half-days — it starts to add up.”

Windsor is part of the broad sweep of Ontario that may feel the squeeze of a strike that began at midnight Thursday and left nearly 3,000 health-care workers on the picket line at nine of 14 community care access centres (CCAC) across the province.

Such a strike hasn’t occurred since Ontario Liberals began steering money away from hospitals and toward cheaper home care. Hospitals have since used home care as a pressure valve to quickly and safely discharge patients to the community.

But with the strike, that pressure valve may jam shut, and hospital officials won’t know how bad it might be until it happens.

“A week from now, I don’t know,” Musyj said.

Some nurses, social workers and therapists with CCAC are normally stationed weekdays in hospitals and ERs to quickly find home care for those who need it. Hospitals discharge most patients on weekdays and not at night or on weekends. In Windsor, those CCAC staff help discharge 50 patients a day.

But with the strike, there will be no one from CCAC in hospital, leaving hospital staff to fax requests to CCAC offices to a skeletal staff of managers and those not in the nurses’ union.

The London-based agency acknowledges the strike by 450 of its workers may cause delays for people seeking new or expanded home care.

“There may be delays in responding to patients with less urgent needs,” Southwest CCAC spokesperson Andria Appeldoorn wrote in a media release Friday.

A spokesperson for CCACs provincewide went even further, saying the strike robs the agencies of the majority of staff and will cause some delays.

“People will not come on to (home) service as quickly as if we didn’t have a strike,” said Megan Allen-Lamb, who is also CEO of North Simcoe Muskoka CCAC.

Those delays could be made worse because hospital wards and ERs are already filled to the rafters, Musyj said.

In the past seven days at London’s University and Victoria hospitals, there have been more patients than staffed beds planned for each day, with capacity ranging between 102% and 113%, according to the hospitals.

Officials at London Health Science Centre (LHSC) didn’t agree to an interview Friday, instead issuing a short media release.

Carol Young-Ritchie, LHSC vice president, wrote that the CCAC has a plan to minimize disruption to patients.

“We don’t anticipate any changes to ongoing provision of priority services to patients,” she wrote. As to patients who need home care but are not deemed a priority, Young-Ritchie was silent.

Nurses at CCAC, and to a lesser extent social workers and therapists, serve as gatekeepers to those seeking new or expanded home care or a place in a nursing home.

The strike means some calls for help will be fielded by people who aren’t part of a regulated health profession such as nursing — but the CCAC says they will only assist those making decisions about access to care.

“Non-union staff members have been trained to support patient services during this labour disruption,” Appeldoorn wrote.

But though hospitals and the CCAC expect some delays, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins didn’t acknowledge that as even a possibility.

“We understand that the CCACs have developed contingency plans and are working with all of their partners to ensure patients continue to receive the care they need,” he wrote in a media release.

Neither the CCAC nor the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) has publicly disclosed their contract demands, but it’s clear their disagreement is more to do about how pay will be boosted than about how much. Nurses want annual raises of at least 1.4% to keep pace with ONA colleagues in hospitals and nursing homes. The CCAC previously agreed to deals with other unions to pay about that amount but with some coming as lump sums that wouldn’t automatically be applied to future contracts.

Other CCACs on strike Friday were North East, North West, Central East, Central, North Simcoe Muskoka, Waterloo Wellington, South East, and Erie St. Clair. “Your employer has drawn a line in the sand . . . Their actions are wrong, mean-spirited and disrespectful,” ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud wrote to members.

Both sides accuse the other of walking away from the bargaining table. READ MORE


 

 

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