Deepening our Commitment to Long-Term Care in Canada| Leading Change for a Stronger Future
By: Dr. Michael Guerriere, President and CEO
As a physician, I have worked in hospitals and the health sector for more than 30 years. Seeing the growing aging population and need for seniors’ care services that lay ahead, I jumped at the chance to join Extendicare in 2018 to shift my focus to home care and long-term care.
I knew that the solution to caring for seniors was not to be found in hospitals. Seniors want to live independently, so we need to be really good at supporting them in their own homes as long as it is possible to do so safely. Then, when needs cannot be safely met at home, long-term care needs to be available to fill the gap.
However, what I saw when I arrived in the community sector was a shock.
The chronic lack of funding and under capacity in home care and long-term care meant that we were falling short of seniors’ needs in the present, never mind getting ready for the huge increase in the population over 75 that is coming over the next 15 years. The community sector has been advocating for more support for decades, to develop and train more caregivers and modernize homes. But the problem flew under the radar and the chronic underfunding for a sector that cares for some of the most cherished and vulnerable people in our society continued.
Then the pandemic hit. And the realities that community health care providers had been living with, working through, and advocating to change became abundantly clear to everyone else.
There are too many older homes in Canada not up to today’s standards for infection prevention and control, privacy and comfort.
There are too few trained staff ready to enter the work force, and too few supports to keep them in fulfilling careers in long-term care and home care.
There are too many people waiting for home care and long-term care in Canada, with waitlists in the tens of thousands who would be better served and supported in a home-like setting rather than being stuck in hospitals.
At Extendicare, we are committed to our mission to improve seniors’ care in Canada in a tangible way for the people we serve. Because “learning to live” with COVID-19 means fixing the problems that made this virus so damaging and tragic for our communities in the first place.
It is the reason we have announced a partnership with Axium Infrastructure that will bring needed capital to build more long-term care homes. Axium is a Canadian investment firm with a strong and enduring commitment to long-term care. Working together, we intend to replace our 21 older long-term care homes with modern facilities with all private rooms, twice the space per resident and more space for families and social interaction.
We also announced an agreement with Revera to take on the operations of all their 56 long-term care homes in Manitoba and Ontario. Revera’s long-term care team will join Extendicare, allowing us to further advance the delivery of high-quality care and services to a consistent standard across all of our combined homes. Together, we will have a team of clinical experts to support front-line caregivers that is second to none.
We are actively increasing the number of caregivers in keeping with the Ontario government’s funding framework to bring us to four hours of care per resident per day by 2024. This is a 30% expansion of front-line care in our homes. To meet this demand, we are partnering with colleges to train new recruits to long-term care, educating up to 3,000 Personal Support Workers and nurses every year inside our homes.
We are grateful to see some governments prioritize policy changes and new investments in long-term care but it is going to take everyone at the table, working together, to close the care gap that exists today.
Extendicare has provided long-term care services in Canada for more than 50 years. I am proud to say we are putting our mission into action and doing our part to improve the sector for the residents we have the privilege of serving today and the growing number of seniors who will need care tomorrow.
There is no time to waste, and the need for a concerted effort by the whole sector has never been clearer. We are embracing this opportunity to lead change, applying both our clinical expertise and the experience of the pandemic to build a better future for seniors’ care.