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Ontario to spend millions on new seniors strategy

Last Updated Nov 7, 2017 at 5:10 pm EDT

File photo.

Ontario plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars over the next four years on a seniors health-care plan that will increase the number of long-term care beds in the province and hours of care provided by staff.

Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement on Tuesday laying out the government’s 20-point plan — called Aging with Confidence — to bolster services for seniors.

The province will spend $500 million over four years to create 5,000 new long-term care beds as part of the plan and is pledging to create 30,000 more over the next decade.

The government will also increase the hours of direct care residents in long-term care homes receive to four hours per day. The Ministry of Health could not say Tuesday how much it will spend to achieve that new care standard, saying its staff will need to consult care providers in the sector to arrive at a cost figure.

Wynne touted the plan as a way to keep Ontario seniors in their homes longer.

“Trying to navigate this phase of life can be a challenge,” she said. “And it is a navigation and so in order to remain independent and to stay healthy and connected there needs to be some level of support that’s provided.”

Wynne said the government will also spend $155 million over three years to keep seniors healthy including $17 million a year to provide a new “high dose” flu vaccine, starting in 2018. It will also spend $15 million over the next two years to provide more recreational resources and health-care support for buildings that already have clusters of seniors, she said.

“There’s not a single service that will work for everyone,” she said. “There’s not a single intervention that will work for everyone. There is a continuum of services and care and supports that we need. So, we’ve listened, we’ve heard that. Our plan will provide support in a wide array of areas.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government is only now spending to improve senior’s care in the province on the eve an election.

“Seniors and their families have been let down for 14 long years by Wynne and the Liberals, and with Wynne’s announcement on seniors care Tuesday, I wouldn’t blame them in the least if they believe they’ll be let down again,” Horwath said in a statement. “During their 14 years in power, the Liberals have amassed a wait list for seniors care that’s more than 32,000-people long.”

Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario secretary treasurer Candace Rennick said the province needs to increase it minimum care guarantees for seniors living in long-term care as the population ages and requires increasingly complex care.

“We are also concerned that the government has offered no timeline for it’s rollout and does not legislate a minimum standard of care,” Rennick said in a statement. “Without legislated care standards there is no guarantee that seniors will get the ongoing care they need and deserve.”