The Health minister says a new government strategy will help people get the support they need to lead healthy and independent lives for as long as possible.
“The long-term-care system will offer more choice for individuals who need support to stay at home, or (live) as close to home as possible,” said Minister of Health and Community Services Susan Sullivan.
On Wednesday, Sullivan unveiled the provincial government’s strategy for long-term care and community support services.
The strategy comes almost two years after public consultations were held across the province on the same subject.
The 10-year strategy includes five priority directions to provide points of focus for dealing with long-term-care and community support services. Those include healthy living and wellness, person-centred service, family and informal caregiving support, quality services and sustainability.
Within those priority directions are multiple goals accompanied by actions to help achieve them.
According to the strategy document, titled “Close To Home,” it’s estimated that 984 new long-term care beds will be needed by 2022 if no action is taken to change the system.
There are 80,000 seniors living in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the province, accounting for 16 per cent of its population. By 2022, seniors are anticipated to account for 23 per cent of the province’s population.
As part of the strategy, Sullivan announced details about two new projects the government hopes will aid long-term care in the province.
A $1.5-million pilot project will focus on enhanced care in personal care homes, including up eight people requiring a higher level of care in each of the three participating personal care homes.
Sullivan also announced a $1.5-million project for age-friendly transportation. It will offer non-governmental organizations, mun-icipalities and other community groups financial support for transportation programs. Grants will peak at a value of $100,000 annually for up to three years.
The strategy document outlines several issues brought up during public consultations. They include the need for increased support for people to remain in their homes and for more options to keep people in their home communities. It was also suggested there is a need for improved communication among service providers, improved services at long-term-care facilities and an increased role for personal care homes.
Sullivan touched on all of those issues when discussing what the strategy will aim to achieve in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“Our commitment to long-term care and community support services is strong, and we currently demonstrate that through an annual operating budget of approximately $600 million,” said Sullivan, who added that figure will likely rise to $760 million annually over the next five years.
John Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada and a former deputy minister of health in the province, said having a strategy on long-term care is essential.
“Looking across the country, provinces that have developed provincewide strategies seem to be making the most progress in this area, and it’s definitely a growing area (causing) pressure on the health-care system,” he said. “Without knowing where you’re going, you are going to be really spending a lot of energy and using up resources that could be better spent if you have a good action plan laid out to achieve the best policy result.”
He said helping people continue to live in their own house or community is known to be the best option for long-term care.
“Fundamentally, it’s what people want,” he said. “There are some good practices right across the country where that’s working, and I hope as they roll out this strategy and implement it that they won’t spend too much time trying to reinvent the wheel here. Look across the country where the best practices are working, adopt those and put them in place as quickly as possible.”
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said he found Wednesday’s ann-ouncement to be “disappointing and underwhelming” given it only offered two new plans.
“It’s a lot of fluff and no stuff,” he said.
While he did say the personal home-care pilot project and the age-friendly transportation grants sound like good initiatives, he cautioned there will likely be uncertainties surrounding the hundreds-of-millions due to be spent on the strategy in light of fluctuating oil prices.
A recent downturn in the price of oil globally has sparked debate on how that will affect the government’s ability to keep up with the rising cost of services.
In particular, Parsons hopes the transportation grants project is not an indication the province is looking to download responsibilities to others.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael had plenty to say about the announcement during question period in the House of Assembly Wednesday afternoon.
Michael suggested some of what was in the long-term-care strategy indicated a creep towards privatization. She also said it looks like the strategy doesn’t do enough.
“What we received today from the government was another strategy without a clear plan for action to deal with the crying need for a long-term-care and home-care plan,” Michael said in the House. “What is government’s plan for having 984 more long-term-care beds ready by 2022?”
Sullivan said an announcement will come soon concerning family and informal caregivers.