While new long-term care beds announced by the provincial government today are badly needed, CUPE Ontario is calling for long-overdue investments to increase resident quality of life and care levels which are dismally low compared to other provinces.

Failing to do that, says Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer, “means our government will continue to fail the 80,000 frail long-term care residents whose care needs are much higher than the province is providing funding for. Levels of care are simply too low in Ontario for the increased complexity of residents. So, it’s not enough to just pay for the bricks and mortar to create new long-term care beds. All that gets us, is more vulnerable residents in long-term care beds with inadequate care levels.”

Long-term care residents today have a much higher acuity and require much more care than they did 20 years ago. Residents with heart disease are growing at a rate of 4.5% per year, those with renal failure are growing at a rate of 3.7% per year. Residents with six, or more, formal diagnoses are growing at a rate of 4.8% per year. Growth in care that is labour-intensive is growing at an alarming annual rate:  5.2% for oxygen therapy, 9.7% for the administration of IV medications, 8.3% for the monitoring on input and output.

As the complexity and heaviness of the care needs of the residents in long-term care homes have risen dramatically, government data shows that the amounts of care provided have actually declined “while residents are increasingly sicker,” says Heather Duff, chair of CUPE Ontario’s health care workers’ committee. “There is a grievous shortfall of resident care in Ontario long-term homes. Yes, we do need more beds, but access alone isn’t enough. Increased care must come with those beds.”

An additional thirty thousand long-term care beds by 2028 will only partially offset the rapid growth in the 85+ population. The ministry of finance projects 42.5% growth in the most relevant population (85 and over) between 2018 and 2028. That growth would require an addition of 33,300 long-term care beds. 

“In other words, even the 30,000 new beds the provincial government has committed to bringing on stream will not entirely offset aging and would require either more patients to be treated in home care or hospital. It will definitely not solve the hospital capacity problem,” says CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president Michael Hurley.