TORONTO - Ontario's governing Liberals will spend $185 million more this year to reduce wait times for seniors who need home care, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Tuesday.
They're setting a target for seniors who require "complex" treatment to receive home care within five days of being assessed, she said. They're also spending another $75 million this year on community care.
It will help about 46,000 patients get the care they need, Wynne said.
But it also appears to be a survival tactic aimed at appeasing the New Democrats, who are demanding quicker home care in the May 2 budget as a condition of their support.
"We have set a five-day target," Wynne said. "I have no idea whether the NDP will look at that and say, well that's enough or not. But what we know is that this is the best way to go."
The NDP are demanding $30 million to eliminate the wait lists and institute a guarantee that no senior in need has to wait longer than five days for home care.
Health Minister Deb Matthews said the Liberals are pledging more than six times that amount.
"It would be impossible to have a five-day guarantee for $30 million," she said. "The numbers just don't work that way."
The increased funding is also going towards a broader range of services, not just home care, Wynne said.
"It is responsible to set that target of five days and we will do our very best to meet it," she said. "And this money will go a long way to doing that."
People deserve a five-day guarantee for home care, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. The government can and should do it.
"In some parts of Ontario, people are waiting 262 days to get the home care that they need," she said before the announcement.
"That's not an acceptable number. And nor is it acceptable that the number shifts around depending on where you live in this province."
The NDP's budget demands also include a 15 per cent cut to auto insurance premiums within a year and closing corporate tax loopholes.
Gaining NDP support is crucial for the minority Liberals, since the Progressive Conservatives have already vowed to vote against the budget. The budget's defeat would topple the government and trigger an election.