Not-for-Profit Agencies Express Concern During Community Support Month
October is Community Support Month in Ontario, but this year a shadow hangs over the occasion, as the government considers changes that would open up the provision of health services to for-profit companies, putting seniors and people with disabilities at risk.
The Ontario government is currently considering changes which would allow for-profit companies to receive government funding to provide community support services. This change would put the quality of client care at risk, discourage volunteerism, and decrease a provider’s ability to respond to local needs.
Community support services help over a million Ontarians live independently in their own homes each year. They include over 25 different services, including personal care and home help, Meals on Wheels, Alzheimer and adult day programs, transportation to medical appointments, caregiver support, and hospice and palliative care services.
For decades, charities and not-for-profit agencies have provided these services in the communities they serve. They receive partial government funding, and are also supported by community foundations, individual donations and over 3 million hours of volunteer service each year. However, a loophole introduced in the government’s latest health care legislation, the Patients First Act, threatens to destabilize this successful system.
“This would be a sudden and significant change to the health care system,” says Deborah Simon, CEO of the Ontario Community Support Association. “It’s important that Ontarians are aware of the issue, because we are deeply concerned it could hurt our clients and their family caregivers.”
Health funding is already stretched to the limit, and introducing more for-profit care would worsen the situation. Not-for-profit agencies re-invest any surplus funds into improving and expanding services, ensuring funding stays in the community and that service quality is never compromised in order to increase profits.
“Not-for-profit agencies have earned the trust of their communities,” says Simon. “They are able to respond to local needs and put their clients first in a way that for-profit companies simply cannot do. The current government has been very supportive of home and community care – we urge them not to undermine it now, and instead choose to protect and strengthen the vital services that Ontarians rely on.
Across the province each year, over one million people receive home care and community support services – and the need is growing. The Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) represents 270 not-for-profit organizations that provide home care and community support services that help seniors and people with disabilities live independently in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. These compassionate and cost-effective services improve quality of life and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations, emergency room visits and premature institutionalization. They are the key to a sustainable health care system for Ontario. For more information, visit www.ocsa.on.ca.
As part of Community Support Month, the Ontario Community Support Association has created a petition calling on the government to protect and strengthen not-for-profit home and community support services. To view the petition, visit www.ocsa.on.ca.