Seniors want to live at home with ‘supports’
The provincial agency that oversees and funds health-care services across Northwestern Ontario says it’s hoping to have a better handle on the need for long-term care beds and services for seniors by early next year.
The North West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) said a long-term care service plan is being worked on and will hopefully clarify “many questions” posed by an array of data regarding the demands of an aging population and a shift to “community-based care.”
“This is about system transformation — not just long-term care beds, but long-term care services,” Northwest LHIN spokeswoman Kelly Arnold says.
“In the past, a long-term care bed was the only option for seniors,” said Arnold.
“That’s not what seniors want. They want to stay at home as long as they can, with appropriate supports.”
The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care came under fire in a provincial auditor-general’s report in mid-December that noted that long wait times for long-term care beds persist across the province.
According to the province, there are 1,586 long-term beds in Northwestern Ontario, with 1,057 of those in Thunder Bay.
The LHIN couldn’t say specifically this week how many extra long-term care beds the region can use.
Earlier this month, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre said nearly 60 of its 375 beds were taken up by patients who should be in a long-term care facility.
The hospital said it can’t discharge them because there’s nowhere for them to go.
Provincial data shows demand for long-term beds in Northwestern Ontario is one of the highest in the province — about 125 beds for every 1,000 people 75 and older. The provincial average for the same age group is 107 beds.
On the plus side, Northwestern Ontario has a greater supply of long-term beds compared to other parts of the province, even though Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is often in “grid-lock” because acute-care beds are taken up by long-term care patients.
“This data poses many questions, which the North West LHIN will address in the long-term care services plan,” said Arnold.
In the long term, the LHIN expects that eight per cent of the Northwest’s population of seniors will require a long term bed, or need to live in a supportive housing environment.
(Note: This story originally appeared in the Sunday, Dec. 23 print edition of The Chronicle-Journal)