On December 15th I had the opportunity to speak in front of the Long-Term Care COVID19 Commission. Over the last 10 years representing Lowertown, Sandy Hill and Vanier, I have seen how complex the needs in our Long-Term Care homes have become along with the challenges faced by public housing agencies such as Ottawa Community Housing in supporting seniors in their homes. 

In my remarks in front of the Commission, I touched on three themes: the growing complexity of the needs of seniors, the gap in coordination with existing healthcare networks along with the pressures for aging seniors in independent housing, specifically public housing.

In non-COVID times, I would visit seniors homes in our neighbourhood to provide updates on our community and have seen a significant increase in the complexity of resident needs that our long-term care homes are serving. The relationships I have built between family members and Staff at these homes have also given me insight into the roles family members and hired private care play in caring for our seniors. The Staff at these publicly run facilities provide excellent care, but as the needs become more complex, residents are less mobile and need more attention. Families are left to fill gaps. Some are more equipped to do this than others. Very simply put, it is obvious in our public Long Term Care homes which families can afford, both financially and mentally, to provide additional support for their loved ones. This is a problem. Our seniors need to be able to age with dignity, regardless of their financial means or the capacity of their family members. 

With these more complex needs comes the necessity to have better coordination in our healthcare system. I have heard firsthand from family members how it can be difficult to coordinate various specialist visits, increases in emergency hospital visits, along with an inconsistency of physicians available onsite. To provide the best care possible, coordination and integration of care is key.

In addition to my role as a local Councillor I am also the Chair of Ottawa Community Housing. This role has given me an inside look into the inequities that exist for our seniors in public housing. Ottawa Community Housing is a landlord. And while we go above and beyond to support tenants, we are ultimately not equipped with the tools or funding to provide specialized support to our senior tenants. We turn to partners such as Aging in Place to fill these gaps, which brings services directly into 11 of OCH’s 22 seniors buildings. We have seen how these types of services greatly benefit tenants and would like to see these supports available to all OCH seniors. What is missing is a coordinated approach to ensure these healthcare elements and other supports are widely available for all seniors to safely age in their homes, and for as long as possible. With the introduction of the Ontario Health Teams, this brings us tremendous opportunities to mandate these teams to provide more coordinated and consistent care to our seniors, notably those wanting to age in place with dignity. 

Ultimately, I have no position on government vs. for-profit long-term care as it relates to building ownership. What needs to exist is coordinated, national standards and care that extend into all homes equally. What has been staggeringly clear during this pandemic is how this lack of coordination and standardization puts our seniors, at great risk.  The notion that being financially able to secure better care is not new. But we now have the opportunity to bridge this gap, and ensure, that regardless of income, seniors are able to access a continuum of care and age with dignity. Due to the evolution of needs, Long Term Care has become an extension of public health care and needs the same oversight and investments.It was an honour to speak in front of the Commission to share my experiences and that of the community in which I represent.

You can read my full remarks here: http://ltccommission-commissionsld.ca/transcripts/pdf/Councillor_Mathieu_Fleury_Transcript_December_15_2020.pdf