Why Canada’s long-term care debate is so important

Written by Sarah Loughran, CNN London, Contributors Chirag Vanawarekar, Victoria Day, CNN Long-term care services are extremely complex and often fall under the political brush. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to combine publicly…

Why Canada's long-term care debate is so important

Written by Sarah Loughran, CNN London, Contributors Chirag Vanawarekar, Victoria Day, CNN

Long-term care services are extremely complex and often fall under the political brush. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to combine publicly funded long-term care into a publicly-run “Careline” service has now been transformed into a controversial private initiative.

Labour party leader Andrea Horwath, a strong advocate for the old and infirm, said the Ontario Care Line could be exploitative and/or divided. The legislation, which looks set to bring the program into a legal state, faces several amendments before it is final.

Even with all these changes, there is plenty of room for improvement.

As prime minister Justin Trudeau pledged support to Canada’s long-term care industry earlier this year

My take on the issue is that far too often funding-related debates have sparked a fear-based backlash in the health care field, leading to misinformation and one-size-fits-all strategies that tend to bypass the public.

For example, raising funding to continue long-term care makes sense: Support for elderly and infirm patients, of any length, will help reduce the burden on the health care system. To fund and maintain such programs would be a small matter of mind-numbing bureaucratic legwork but, crucially, it will mean better access and more care to patients. What it may cost is a further issue, especially when it’s paired with unfair cuts elsewhere in the system.

This is a tough debate but it is better to talk about it than pretend it doesn’t exist.

If nothing else, there are many older and infirm people who will benefit from this time, some of whom may have been quietly struggling financially or mentally in residential care, or have simply outlived their savings. This is why it is vital that society continues to address this issue.

This decision is essential for those patients and their families — but also to avoid misdiagnosis, error and neglect.

Speaking to a member of the Association of Long-Term Care Facilities in Ontario, I discovered that many residential care facilities did not have the resources to prepare for one of the highest growth areas of the aging population.

It’s another example of how pressure — and perceptions — can affect the way Canadian politicians and health professionals approach long-term care.

But let’s not ignore the other side of the coin.

The Careline plan was also heavily criticized by provinces including Quebec and Newfoundland. A BBC News report , for example, described the Careline as an “expensive experiment that will boost the budget for the Ontario government and drive care for the elderly from an affordable public system to one where some may not receive the appropriate level of care.”

This statement is true, for more reasons than one. First, the Careline will become a compulsory service, which means that it will become mandatory for all people receiving government-funded care; it is guaranteed to be universal, both in Ontario and Ontario residents who wish to fund it themselves.

Secondly, the Careline would be enforced by a non-profit organization, CareLink . This sounds controversial, but it means that money would no longer be redirected to expensive and ineffective private firms.

It would guarantee that CareLink would be active across Canada, in a way that guarantees coordinated and efficient care.

This sounds like a good start, but this version is no longer essential.

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