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Are we creating enough LTC beds?

Stats Canada research shows that between 2003/4 and 2009/10 the total number of residents in "homes for the aged" (a phrase  used by Stats Can to mean a range of LTC facilities)  increased from 76,866 to 84,873 in Ontario.  That is an increase of 8,007 residents, or 10.4%.   The number of people aged 85 or over in these homes increased quite a bit more rapidly,  growing by 18.8%. The 85 and over age group are now a majority in the homes.

The number of 'approved' beds is increasing more slowly, growing by 7,186 beds, going from 81,849 beds to 89,035.  That is an 8.8% increase.

In fact, the nursing home beds are not keeping up with the explosion in the number of people 85 and over, the main age group in the homes.   As reported a few days ago, the population 85 and over is growing very rapidly -- roughly four times more rapidly than the number of  LTC beds.

Contrary to what the Health Minister has suggested, these new nursing home beds do not make up for the hospital bed cuts.  They don't even make up for the growth in the relevant population.

This is not just passing problem.  The rapid growth in the 85 plus population is going to continue.   Ontario Ministry of Finance figures indicate that in the five years between 2006 and 2011 the number of people 85 and over increased 34%.  By 2016 the plus 85 set will have increased by 67% over 2006 -- and the ratio of those 90 and over compared to those between 85 and 90 will have increased from about 50% to 70%.

As one might expect, wait times for LTC beds have grown rapidly in recent years. Given the modest plans to expand the number of LTC beds, this may well get worse.  The growth in LTC beds is falling far behind the growth in the elderly population.

The Minister of Health and Long Term Care, Deb Matthews, is not concerned about this it seems. In her speech to the Ontario Hospital Association convention a few days ago she instead cited, approvingly, Denmark, which, she claims "hasn’t built a new nursing home since 1987."

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