A report prepared by Ontario hospitals offers the provincial government ways to save on the cost of palliative care and other health-care services.
The report released by the Ontario Hospitals Association (OHA) last week suggests the province can save up to $15 million a year for revised strategies on patient care.
Among the recommendations, the report suggested revising existing care strategies under palliative care. It estimated that as much as $15,000 per patient can be saved if those in palliative care are taken out of hospital beds and transferred into home care settings. That translates to $9 million in annual savings.
Premier Dalton McGuinty applauded the OHA report called “Bending the Health Care Cost Curve” during Friday’s annual meeting of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.
The recommendation received approval from across the floor at Queen’s Park.
NDP Health and Long-Term Care critic France Gélinas said that this recommendation is a viable one. Adopting this policy, she added, would allow the province to “deliver a top quality, respectful, appreciative care” to palliative patients.
“(They) are not served well in hospital systems,” Gélinas said. “This is a huge win-win for the patient, their families and the taxpayer.”
Rick Firth, executive director of the Hospice Association of Ontario (HAO), supported this move to provide patients with more options to long-term care. The HAO has spent the last four years developing improved operating models for the community it serves.
“(We provide) patient-directed care,” Firth said. “Our clients’ experiences (have produced) an overwhelming positive response.”
Hospices provide both on- and off-site services that allow hospice staff (including nurses, specialty physicians and volunteers) to care for patients in a home-like setting.
HAO’s reports from the past fiscal year show that the money saved from moving palliative care patients into hospices is similar to the OHA’s estimates.
There are currently eight hospice programs in the City of Toronto. Over a 12-month period, 34 per cent of residential hospice admissions (a total of 622 patients) have come from hospitals.
The OHA “Bending the Health Care Cost Curve” report also suggested that staffing hospital emergency rooms with mental health professionals around-the-clock could help Ontario save another $6 million a year in ER services.
ERs are currently staffed with general practitioners and nurses who do not have the necessary training to deal with patients needing immediate mental health care. According to the report, if mental illness and addiction specialists are available 24/7, ER wait times could be significantly reduced.
Gélinas is one of three MPPs appointed to a select committee for mental health.
“People with (urgent) mental health needs are really poorly serviced in our existing emergency rooms,” she said. “(Our committee) has been working on this issue for over a year now.”
According to Gélinas, there will be “a re-engineering of delivery of mental health services coming for Ontario.”
A final report on her committee’s findings will be released in September.
Moving such patients out of hospital is definitely the way to go to reduce the costs and while providing more comfort for patients. This move should have happened a long time ago, but the fact that it is finally happened is still very good news.