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Piece by Piece: Funding Manitoba’s Growing Health Care Needs

April 22, 2017 8:06 AM | Columns

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman

Hospital Bed

(Hospital bed image via Mary Rice / Shutterstock)

NEEPAWA, Man. — Changes are coming to local health care. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve interviewed representatives from two companies expanding their private home care services into the Neepawa area. Looking at trends, I suspect this is something we are going to see more and more.

The demand for private care is being driven by a number of factors, one of which is the more limited services provided by government funded home care. Provincial home care provides a range of services, including personal care assistance, such as help with bathing or transferring to a wheelchair; home support, such as help with meals and light housekeeping; health care, such as education or nursing care; in-home respite, to provide short-term relief for a family caregiver; supplies and equipment; adult day programs; volunteer services and community housing with support options.

Many Manitobans rely on these services, but for some people’s needs, they fall short. The tasks that can be done by home care workers are limited — they can reheat meals, but not prepare them, they can’t provide any transportation services and they don’t have time to just socialize with the clients. It’s understandable that a one size solution needs to be in place for such a large operation, one which requires home care staff to work independently, with little supervision when they are in clients’ homes and clients who need assistance for a wide variety of reasons. Taxpayers are funding the provision of health care, not transportation services or companionship, despite the fact that these are important to a person’s mental health. But one size doesn’t fit all.

Due to work, other commitments, or distance, many families are unable to meet their loved ones’ non-health care needs. Additionally, some people needing care don’t have families upon which they can rely. Regardless of the reason, for many people, a family member or friend can’t always take them to doctor’s appointments, sit and chat or take them out shopping and while public funded home care can’t provide these services, private care companies can.

Home care is an extremely important part of the health care puzzle. It keeps those who need a little bit of care out of hospital emergency rooms and care homes, which are expensive ways of providing care. According to a Manitoba Auditor General report on home care, published in 2015, 24,514 Manitobans used home care services in 2012/2013. This cost the province’s health authorities $326 million, or $13,298 per person for the year.

According to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, the average hospital bed costs $800 per day and it’s $2,000 per day for intensive care. Per day costs at a personal care home are about $200 and it costs about $300,000 per bed to build a care home, so for communities with care homes that are full, or near capacity, keeping those who need some care at home, instead of having to build more care home beds, can represent a huge cost saving.

The need for health care, particularly services aimed at helping seniors age at home, is only going to increase. Between 2021 and 2036, the number of Manitobans over 75 years of age is expected to grow rapidly, as Baby Boomers reach 75 years of age. Statistics Canada predicts that in 2038, the proportion of seniors aged 65 years and over, in Manitoba, will vary between 19 per cent and 23 per cent of the province’s total population. According to Manitoba Health data, in 2016, just under 15 percent of the province’s population was 65 years of age or older.

Providing necessary care for a growing population of Manitobans who need it is going to be one of the province’s largest challenges going forward. Creative solutions will be required and I expect we’ll see more of them, both inside and outside of provincially-funded health care.