CUPE knocks Ontario panel on self-directed home care

An Ontario panel’s call for self-directed home care, increases burden on families, takes wrong-approach to changing the home-care system, claims the union.

Far from fixing a disjointed and mostly private home care system that does not provide patients with adequate levels of care at home, the report released Mar. 13 by Ontario’s Expert Group on Home and Community Care, promotes ideas that will further compromise care quality, and increase privatization and service inequity, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario.

As it cuts hospital beds and services, the Ontario government has made the provision of home and community care the focal point of their health plan. But, says CUPE Ontario vice-president Michael Hurley following the panel’s recommendations “will make it impossible for home care to play the role government wants it to, because care quality will be too compromised. We are disheartened by what the report recommends and encourage the minister to not pursue these ideas that we believe will make the system worse, not better.”

For instance the report suggests that the province expand self-directed care funding whereby individual families get a pot of money to go and buy care in the marketplace. “This will compromise care quality, lead to a further erosion of the home care system and put the burden on already stressed families to find, interview and hire their own care. Essentially they would become employers,” says Heather Duff, a community care access centre worker in eastern Ontario.

CUPE did make a submission to the expert group. We called on the province to improve home and community care by creating a unified and public home care system, ending contracting out and improving care quality by stabilizing the workforce through more full-time personal support worker positions.

“To posit a solution like self-directed care that hinges on families with loved ones who are ill at home, hiring personal support workers, nurses, therapist and respite providers, completely abdicates the government’s responsibility to provide equitable access to home and community care services,” says Hurley.

The one aspect of the report that CUPE Ontario does agree with, is that the current home care system structure is truly not working. With its myriad of service providers (the majority of which are for-profit agencies), and hundreds of service agreements, home care is indeed “a mess,” says Hurley. “There are no solutions made by the panel that we believe will improve care quality and care levels.”

CUPE Ontario has set up a home care patient hotline (1-888-599-0770) for Ontarians to access and tell us their experiences the home and community care system. What is evident from the many calls to the hotline says Duff, is that “the level and scope of home services is inadequate. Often leaving vulnerable people in a very difficult situation without the home care they need. This is getting worse as more people need care at home because of cuts to hospital and long-term care services.”