The Ontario government has implemented an ambitious new program to help the most vulnerable in the province cope with an aging population.
But now we have another number to add to the list – how many deaths are needed before these reforms make a difference?
“Health Care Not Crime” is a collaborative initiative of senior health groups, organizations advocating for those living in care homes, seniors’ advocates, OHIP and other agencies.
The goal is simple: to control costs by not incarcerating those who are incapacitated and in their families’ care.
If changes are made, it could save Ontario taxpayers billions of dollars in potential incarceration costs.
Sadly, an organization called “Senior Services Ontario” doesn’t seem to agree.
Their letter that followed Ontario’s announcement of the bold program admitted that holding the relatives or caregivers of the incapacitated accountable would be “confusing and burdensome.”
“Based on the evidence presented to us by Health Canada and the federal government, it is unlikely there will be a safe or efficient way of promoting accountability for these relationships,” the organization explained.
This doesn’t bode well for the hundreds of thousands of residents in Ontario nursing homes.
For years, a hoarding of drugs has left our nursing homes dirty, uninspected and unsafe. Drug regulation is another policy where Government Health Organizations trump the beliefs of those who work in health care and the people in the room.
We have fought for action for years.
In 2015, both the federal and provincial governments took the bold step of allowing elected members of their communities (actually in our house, the British Columbia legislature) to investigate drug shortages and crimes committed by pharmacists, nurses and others involved with dispensing medications. This provided vital oversight to the system and put an end to the Medicare-for-Drugs racket.
We applaud Ontario’s efforts.
But let’s get real about the task ahead and the additional dangers in implementing this bold policy.
Currently, the Nursing Services Council of Ontario refuses to issue the required regulations for a new OHIP bill.
Because of this, it’s easy to understand why several pharmacists who do not have a nursing license are now issuing prescriptions and charging fees to seniors in their homes.
Imagine how easy it would be for abuse, incompetence or just plain theft if these caregivers are empowered to prescribe medication.
However, nursing agencies in Ontario are going to continue working to stop such schemes. They want to ensure that the quality of care that is offered to nursing home residents receives the highest standard of care.
Any treatment not based on sound evidence will not be accepted by the Canadian Nurses Association.
Let’s be clear: old people are not criminals.
That’s why we urge the Ontario government to continue to consult seniors’ associations, providers and other health and care workers on future actions to improve standards in nursing homes.
There is more to do – and more to be done.
Louis Goncharov is president of the Canadian Nurses Association and a Canadian nurse who lives in Victoria, British Columbia.