OMNI applauding 2018-19 budget for addressing small LTC homes, providing funding increases

OMNI Health Care is applauding the Ontario government for commitments made in the 2018-19 budget to support the province’s long-term care sector and for the fact this year’s budget pays attention not seen before to small long-term care communities.

As a provider of many smaller long-term care homes, OMNI is particularly pleased with the sustainability funding being provided to support homes with fewer than 64 beds, notes Patrick McCarthy, the organization’s president and CEO.

Until now, models for funding and regulating Ontario long-term care homes have not been favourable for the viability of small, rural long-term care homes, McCarthy says.

The Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA), which advocates for more than 430 private long-term care homes in the province, has been asking for budgets to include more focus on smaller homes for several years, he adds.

The focus on small homes in the 2018-19 budget is unprecedented, McCarthy says.

“We haven’t seen that before,” he says. “There is a lot of discussion about how to make smaller homes viable, and so this budget includes a provision to provide some additional funding for very small homes in the nursing envelope in order to help the viability of nursing staff.

“We hope this is a sign of things to come in terms of complete focus on the viability of smaller homes so we can keep serving those smaller communities.”

McCarthy says OMNI is also “very pleased” with the government’s commitment to providing stable funding increases directed at personal care and programming, which will help meet the inflationary pressures of costs.

The budget also includes earmarks for the Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) initiative, a program that supports enhancing the quality of life for seniors with cognitive impairment, largely by providing caregiver education.

“We think (BSO) has been an excellent program that has demonstrated results, particularly where we have been able to have embedded BSO teams,” McCarthy says. “We have seen really great results, so that further investment is greatly appreciated.”

The budget includes an $8-million commitment to fund equipment in long-term care homes to prevent falls and injuries, which McCarthy says is another step forward.

“There are advancements in equipment and technology that we need to keep pace with, so establishing a fund to help us acquire equipment that would support resident safety and security is a great step,” he says.

While the 2018-19 budget is receiving favourable reviews from OMNI and the OLTCA, McCarthy says there are still improvements that can be made in the future.

For example, the budget does not address accommodation funding, but McCarthy says he is hopeful the government will address inflationary pressures when this announcement is made in the coming months.

The budget did include welcomed increased funding for food costs, but McCarthy says OMNI believes it is important to invest in staffing in long-term-care home nutritional care departments.

“We would have preferred to see more focus on nutrition staffing as we feel that (increased staffing) may be as important, if not more important, than (increasing the budget) for raw food itself,” he says.