Community Services Critic Lorraine Michael (MHA, St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi) says the provincial government’s long term-care services are failing seniors.

The government commissioned Deloitte Provincial Home Support Program Review was published last summer. It pointed out a lack of consistency across the province with regard to how people’s needs for long term-care are being assessed.

Michael says as far as she knows the government has not taken any action to rectify the concerns raised in the review.

Unlike Quebec, Ontario, and Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador’s homecare is not part of the public healthcare system. This means that seniors who are admitted to hospital receive clinical and financial assessments, which determine whether they are eligible for homecare.

One of the problems the review has identified is that each of the four regional health authorities has its own intake and referral procedures. Both nurses and social workers are doing intake work, despite being two totally different groups of professionals with different training.

“This adds to the problem of consistency and equal access in a provincial program. In a provincial program, everybody should have the same access to the program and be assessed in the same way,” Michael says.

The report recommends having clinical practitioners trained specifically for the job doing intake. It also calls for more collaboration between doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Michael says that as a province we have a problem with “case management,” meaning the level of communication between all the health care professionals working with a patient.

The report stresses the need for integrated care plans, which would insure that patients don’t go home without knowing whether they need and are eligible for homecare.

Currently, some people receive subsidized or co-pay homecare. However, the most recent provincial budget saw an increase in fees associated with co-pay homecare. Michael says she has heard from seniors who have been severely impacted by the raised fees for homecare.

“We know seniors are suffering, seniors are going to food banks, seniors are counting pennies and it shouldn’t be that way,” Michael says. She described speaking to a senior in her constituency who was ill and had been diagnosed with cancer.

The woman’s husband required homecare but had to reduce the number of hours of care he received each week because of increased fees. The woman’s doctors were concerned about how the stress of caring for her husband was going to affect her own health. The couple were trying to save money for homecare and told Michael they might not be able to give their family Christmas gifts that year.

“We have evidence of people’s needs not being met and even though we advocate for them the way things are now with the tightness of budget and changes that were made, we can’t get anywhere in advocating for people,” Michael says, “… I hope the government will realize what they’ve done to seniors with some of the changes in this budget .”