Fighting for long-term  care beds

By Chad Ingram

The Central East LHIN says it’s trying to maintain the number of long-term care beds in HaliburtonCounty but provincially mandated requirements are making the future of60 of the community’s beds unclear.

The CEO of Central East Local Health Integration Network visited Haliburton County councillors during their Sept. 23 meeting.

Deborah Hammons gave council an update on the activities of the LHINincluding the creation of its 2016-2019 integrated health service planduring Wednesday’s meeting.

“As you know [the numbers of] long-term care beds have been frozen for quite a while now” said Dysart et alReeve and County Warden Murray Fearrey. “We are getting a lot ofAlzheimer’s patients in long-term care sometimes they’re disruptive. To me that should be separate. Is that something the LHIN is working with the province on?”

Hammons told Fearrey that the province is in theprocess of “redeveloping” 30000 long-term care beds in Ontario and that she and other LHIN CEOs had recently met with associate minister ofhealth and long-term care Dipika Damerla.

“Our question to her ishow do you know that these beds that are being redeveloped need to beredeveloped?” Hammons said. “How do you know they’re going to be placedin the right place?”
Hammons said within the Central East LHIN 38 of its 68 long-term care facilities are scheduled for “redevelopment.”

A long-term care renewal strategy was announced by the province in2014 requiring that long-term care facilities be brought up to newministry design standards by 2025.

“We’re not going to move aheadwith those until our board chair and our board feel comfortable thatwe’re going to at least maintain the beds and they’re going to be at the right location and obviously Haliburton is one of those areas that wecan’t stand to lose one bed in” Hammons said.

The spectre of losing any long-term care beds did not sit well with council members.

“Service is one thing but to our small community so is jobs” Fearrey said. “If we lose those jobs there’s going to be a war.”

MindenHills Reeve Brent Devolin referencing the community’s high seniorpopulation said the idea of fewer beds was unacceptable and that moreare required.

“You’re talking about not losing beds you’ve got thepicture wrong” Devolin said. “That’s not acceptable at all. There’ll be marching in the streets. The province needs to through the LHIN putmore bricks and mortar in and it’s as simple as that.”

Fearrey wondered how long it would be before a decision was made about the long-term care beds.

Hammons said the LHIN would either come back to visit council or at least meet with county staff before any decision was made.

“We’ll make sure we loop back around” she said.

There are 152 long-term care beds in Haliburton County. Ninety-two ofthem are located at Haliburton Highlands Health Services facilitiesHyland Crest (60) and Highland Wood (32). The other 60 beds are locatedat Extendicare Haliburton which is a separate entity.

“Both ourfacilities meet the long-term care standards” said HHHS CEO VaroujEskedjian of the organization’s long-term care facilities. “TheHaliburton Extendicare facility does not meet the standards.”

LikeHHHS’s long-term care facilities the older Haliburton Extendicarereceives provincial funding using that in concert with fees fromresidents to operate.

Eskedjian said it’s really a corporate decision of Extendicare whether the company will upgrade the facility.

“We feel the same way as the county” Eskedjian said adding theExtendicare beds are vital to the community. “We’ve been in discussionwith them about keeping these beds in the county.”

If the beds arenot maintained it would be almost inconceivable that many beds would be added at the HHHS facilities at least any time in the near future.

“For us to even think about we’d have to go through an extensive capital planning process” Eskedjian said.

Extendicare which operates facilities throughout the country has notyet made a decision on what might happen with its Haliburton beds.

“Extendicare is reviewing the new requirements to determine how best toapproach the redevelopment of its Class C beds located in communitiesthroughout the province” communications manager Sofia Mavumba wrote inan email to the paper. “The economics of the redevelopment programrequire that providers such as Extendicare optimize the size andlocation of long-term care centres to ensure optimal efficiency andcare. We have a long history of serving the community and would be happy to continue to operate [in Haliburton]. We have been in discussionswith the LHIN and other stakeholders to explore any and all options toensure we continue to deliver care more efficiently. No decisions haveyet been made with respect to the redevelopment of this particularcentre. We will be sure to keep all stakeholder informed when a plan isdeveloped.”

Hammons told Fearrey his comment on dementia patientswas important and that a LHIN-wide dementia strategy needs to bedeveloped involving training people to help identify the onset ofdementia as well as educating caregivers and family members.

“The medical staff are not trained to do that” she said.

Lack of affordable home care for the elderly was also brought up at the council table.

“I’m living the aging-at-home reality right now” said Moffatt whosemother recently returned home from five weeks in hospital.

Amongother gaps in the system Moffatt said that home care services areover-subscribed and under-funded and explained her family is now payingfor expensive in-home care out of Sudbury.
“How do we get those people here?” Moffatt said.

Last week Ontario’s auditor general released a report condemning the state of home care in the province.