The province is taking a closer look at the implications of the growing ranks of Ontario seniors, a minority segment of the population that has costly health needs.
As a result, the Ontario government is taking steps to ensure that all senior citizens have access to the health professionals who can provide them with the care they need in their advancing years — both to keep them healthy and out of hospital.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said Tuesday that the government will match every senior with a primary care provider, a key recommendation from a report prepared for the government on how to improve care for older Ontarians.
"Our government is committed to ensuring that every senior Ontarian who wants a primary care provider, who wants a nurse, a nurse practitioner or a family doctor will get one," Matthews said during a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday morning.
The government says the "Living Longer, Living Well" report, which was based upon information gleaned from 5,000 seniors, 2,500 other stakeholders and more than 1,000 caregivers, will inform its strategy on seniors. Highlights from the report were released to the public on Tuesday.
Matthews said that as the population ages, there is an emerging need for older Ontarians to have different types of health care services.
But on Tuesday, the health care minister was only announcing action on two of the dozens of recommendations made in the report.
"I'm taking every recommendation very, very seriously and as we move forward I think you'll see significant progress," Matthews said Tuesday.
Senior population to double
According to government statistics, the 1.9 million seniors living in Ontario make up about 14.6 per cent of the province’s population. But they account for nearly half of all health-care spending.
The provincial government believes that the number of Ontario seniors may double within 20 years.
That demographic shift necessitates changes in the provincial health system into one that "responds to the needs of people as they age," Matthews said.
The health minister said the government will also move to expand access to home care, through personal support workers who can provide assistance to low-needs patients.
As previously announced, the government will increase investment in community and health care services by an average of four per cent in this year and the next two.
Matthews said this funding increase will help provide home care for 90,000 additional seniors in Ontario.