PCs tweak LTC funding formula, yielding more cash for new construction, but fewer beds

By Sabrina Nanji July 16, 2020

The Ford government is changing the way it funds long-term care home construction to spur development. The new measures slash the number of new beds promised by the PCs while upping the amount LTC providers receive for new construction projects.
During a tech briefing Wednesday, officials acknowledged new beds have been slow to grow and said the new funding formula will accelerate construction. The solution is to increase the Construction Funding Subsidy based on regional categories (large urban, urban, mid-size and rural) and provide grants to cover 10 to 17 per cent of upfront capital costs such as land and development charges.
According to an example provided by the ministry, an LTC provider that would have received $31.4 million in funding and grants to build a mid-sized home would receive around $38 million under the new model. 
Thanks to the per-home spending increase, the PC’s previously earmarked $1.75 billion will now bankroll nearly 8,000 new beds and redevelop 12,000 others over five years. The moneypot was initially going to fund 15,000 new and 15,000 renovated beds over that timeline. 
At least 4,000 beds are expected to come online by 2022, the end of the Ford government’s first mandate. The PCs also reiterated their campaign pledge to open 30,000 new beds over a decade. 
But even that may not be enough to keep pace with Ontario’s aging population. According to the financial accountability officer, the PC’s original plan for 15,000 new beds wasn’t enough to reduce growing wait lists or improve so-called hallway medicine. Health officials also acknowledged the 3,000 patients currently in hospital awaiting a transfer to long-term care, which is straining the health-care system.
There is no word on how the Tories will tackle chronic understaffing and hire more workers to handle the extra beds. Officials recognized a “complementary” staffing strategy is required, but said yesterday’s announcement was about funding restructuring. 
SEIU Healthcare, which represents LTC workers, said the PC’s plan does nothing to fix the staffing problems that plagued homes during the worst of the Covid crisis or to prepare homes for future waves of the virus or the upcoming flu season. 
As of Wednesday, 1,730 LTC residents and eight staff have died from the virus. 
‘Rerun of a Liberal announcement’: Opposition reacts 
Under the new funding model, for-profit corporations “that have failed seniors for years could get even more public money,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath charged. 
She said the move felt like “a rerun of a Liberal announcement” where beds were announced but never built, noting a paltry 611 came online during the ex-rulers’ last two terms between 2011 and 2018. 
Horwath urged the PCs to improve conditions by hiring more staff to deliver four hours of hands-on care per resident per day, hiking PSW wages and offering full-time hours, and kicking for-profits to the curb. 
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Premier Doug Ford “flip flopped” on his 15,000-bed promise and claimed the Tories “neglected to build a single new LTC bed since they came into power.” 
Green Leader Mike Schreiner is skeptical the changes will help elderly folks who need it now. “Old funding announcements and far-off promises won’t provide any relief to elders who are suffering right now on waitlists or in substandard nursing homes.” 
‘It is complicated’: AC for new builds while surveying existing homes 
New LTC homes are about to get cooler with mandatory air conditioning, but it isn’t clear if that includes retirement homes or existing LTC homes. 
Newly erected and renovated homes will be required to install AC via regulatory and design standard changes. Officials said they are surveying existing homes to get an idea of how many already have AC and other cooling systems in place. 
“The issues surrounding where we put air conditioning in our long-term care homes has to be a thoughtful process,” LTC Minister Merrilee Fullerton said. “There are issues with some of the older buildings in terms of the electrical system being able to take more of a load, and all of these things have to be considered — it is complicated.” 
Homes will get cash to install AC, but there’s no dollar figure attached. 
“In terms of the exact number for the fund, we have to understand the current regulations, the current issues surrounding Covid … and even the use of fans in our homes has to be considered — how we orient the fan, how they can be used. There’s multiple different ways of cooling homes as well, and that has to be understood,” Fullerton told reporters. 
What’s for sure is that for-profit homes will be able to dip into the taxpayer-funded envelope. “Whatever ownership it is, whether it’s for-profit, municipal or not-for-profit, ultimately it’s about residents’ safety and well-being and their health,” Fullerton said.