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Long-term Care Homes out of Reach for Many Manitobans

According to data published by the government of Canada, the average cost for low-need elderly housing, where the resident requires minimal assistance, which accounts for less than 90 minutes of worker aid per day, is $3,075 per month. The prices vary across the country, with the highest average cost being in Ontario, averaging $4,000 per month. BC is a distant second highest at $3,500 per month, and Alberta averages $3,400 per month. 

The costs vary because of mixed health care budgets from province to province and the varying sizes of elderly populations. According to a WRHA spokesperson, the cost of personal care home residency in Manitoba is based on the resident’s income. 

“The cost of these services is shared by the provincial government and the client who needs the services. Manitoba Health pays the majority of the cost through Regional Health Authorities. The clients pay the other portion.” 

In Manitoba, the vacancy rate of elderly care homes in 2021 was just shy of 9 per cent, among the lowest in the country. Coupled with an average monthly cost of $2,850 per month, access to adequate long-term care homes can be difficult for Manitobans to come by. In 2022, the province had approximately 9.500 beds in long-term care homes. According to the WRHA, the priority is to keep clients in their own homes for as long as possible.  

“Research shows that this offers a better road toward the maintenance of good health and quality of life,” the WRHA website says. 

The Home is Best initiative promoted by the government of Manitoba is based on the idea that clients will have greater life satisfaction if they are allowed to stay in their homes with assistance. Long-term care homes are then reserved for individuals who are unable to live alone safely. 

“At home, you are in your own space, can sleep in your own bed, have meals at your own table, and be as independent as possible,” says the WRHA. 

The WRHA promotes private home care as an alternative, allowing individuals to stay home with assistance. In Manitoba, regional health authorities are responsible for in-home services, which send staff members to clients’ homes to help with daily life tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, or meal prep. Home care staff are expected to keep visits brief to reduce costs. Many are instructed to complete designated tasks within 20 minutes to address the needs of as many clients as possible. 

Those in need of a personal care home will be admitted to the home they applied to in order of application. The wait time will vary from home to home as the availability of beds changes in specific homes. In Winnipeg, if the care home of choice is at capacity, a client is entitled to the next available bed in the city, according to the WRHA. 

“There is generally capacity to admit an eligible person to the first available bed in a Winnipeg personal care home within a short period of time. The person can then await transfer to their home of choice when space becomes available.” 

Not Enough Care Homes 

In 2012, the Manitoba government announced it would begin the construction of a 95-bed elderly care home in Lac du Bonnet to replace an older building that houses 30 people. Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives paused the project in 2017. Before the 2023 provincial election, the PCs renewed it when Premier Heather Stefanson announced $65 million would go to it. When Wab Kinew won the premiership, many health care projects, including the Lac du Bonnet care home, were put on hold. 

Lac du Bonnet mayor Ken Lodge has said 65 people in his community await care home placement. The 30-bed home currently in Lac du Bonnet is not enough for what the community and surrounding area needs.  

If an individual is waiting for care home residence and hospitalized, they must remain in hospital until they are accepted to a care home. Once the process of being panelled for a care home is complete, individuals staying in hospitals must pay for the care they receive. 

Residents of Lac du Bonnet have since expressed their disappointment, some saying they feel their needs have been exploited to garner votes. In the meantime, the opposition PCs have denounced the NDP for the pause on health care projects, referring to the Lac du Bonnet care home as “another cut from the NDP government,” according to PC seniors critic Derek Johnson. 

The NDP has yet to mention whether they will follow through with the once-promised Lac du Bonnet project as they decipher how and where to spend their budget. 

“When we have a $1.6 billion deficit handed to us by the PCs, it’s a pretty big financial mess that our government has to clean up,” said Health Minister Uzoma Asagwara in December 2023. 

The province has not declared when its assessment of expenses will conclude, which will lay out what funds will be made available for health care expenses. On the campaign trail, NDP candidates clearly stated they would “fix” health care in Manitoba, a promise that attracted the vote of many Manitobans as it was often reported as the most critical issue for voters. 

The sign indicating the “future site” of the Lac du Bonnet personal care home remains posted where construction was intended to begin, frustrating locals with reminders of multiple governments’ broken promises.  

In 2016, the PCs promised to add 1,200 personal care home beds over eight years. In actuality, the eight years that followed saw a decline of nearly 200 care home beds overall. While the province did add 450 beds in that time, the closure of outdated Parkview Place in downtown Winnipeg discounted the growth. A representative from the Manitoba Association of Residential and Community Care Homes for the Elderly has said that with an aging population, Manitoba needs more than a thousand new beds to be made available in its care homes. 

In 2020, Parkview was severely impacted by COVID-19 after an internal outbreak took the lives of 30 residents between September 2020 and January 2021. By August 2021, the Revera, the company that owned the building, announced that it would be shutting its doors for good. 

Across Manitoba wait times vary, ranging from a few months to multiple. The primary factor as to what a wait time will be is based on what level of care the individual needs as well as where they are applying to.  

According to Statistics Canada, 5.2 million Canadians are over 70 years old. This accounts for approximately 13 per cent of the overall population. There are presently more than 10 million Canadians between the ages of 40 and 60, setting the stage for the next round of aging Canadians who will one day require care home assistance. While it is 20-30 years down the road, it is still important for provincial legislators to bear this in mind as we move forward. While our population continues to age, there is a continual need for care homes in every province across the country. 

– Matthew Harrison, U Multicultural

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