Dear Editor,

I am a physiotherapist working in a long-term care home in Woodstock.

I was shocked by the announcement of cuts to physiotherapy to seniors by Minister of Health Deb Mathews. On April 18, the minister of health announced the government is going to change how physiotherapy services are funded in long-term care and retirement homes. The announcement said this change would improve access to one-on-one physiotherapy, exercise and fall prevention classes. Beginning Aug. 1, 2013, an additional 200,000 Ontarians – 400,000 in total – will be able to access physiotherapy in long-term care homes and in communities across Ontario. Minister Mathews has announced the government will increase the annual budget for these services from $146 million to $156 million.

In reality, OHIP-funded physiotherapy expenditure was over $200 million for the fiscal year ending March 2013, and it was $172 million for the fiscal year ending March 2012. It is very clear from this data the announced $156 million is actually a $44-million funding cut that is around 22% of what was actually spent last year. I do not understand how a cut in physiotherapy funding by about 22% would improve the same services in future. Starting Aug. 1, 2013, long-term care homes will receive $58.5 million to provide physiotherapy to their residents. This is half of the $110 million spent treating seniors in long-term care in 2012. At present, seniors with a referral from their physician or a registered nurse in the long-term care home receive up to 100 to 150 treatments per year, depending on their need. These two to three treatments per week help our seniors to regain their lost mobility, prevent falls and improve quality of life in long term care homes. After Aug. 1, 2013, with decreased funding in long-term care, seniors could lose half of their treatments.

The story is different in retirement homes. Come Aug. 1, seniors in retirement homes will be eligible for only 12 physiotherapy treatments per year. They have to go in search of a physiotherapy provider outside their home. The cost of getting physiotherapy services will include transport charges that are not covered under the new scheme. This is opposed to the 100 in-house physio services they receive at present. If they have to get in-house physio, they have to call community care access centers (CCACs) that deliver physio treatment at $120 per visit. Under the current model, designated physiotherapy clinics provide in-home physiotherapy services to retirement home residents at a cost of $12.20 per treatment. Ambulatory seniors, children and people on social assistance access 50-100 treatments, depending on their medical condition, at a designated physiotherapy clinic for $ 12.20 per treatment.

Minister Mathews states that by changing how physiotherapy is funded, the number of Ontarians receiving care will double. But the funding is being cut, and they’re shifting the service provision from the lowest cost provider, designated physiotherapy clinics, to high-cost providers. Minister Mathews has presented this to the people of Ontario as though the government’s plan to cut funding for physiotherapy in long-term care by 50%, to eliminate on-site physiotherapy for seniors in retirement homes, limit visits to clinics and adding an expensive layer of bureaucracy will provide accessible, high quality physiotherapy treatments.

Physiotherapists like myself work for the welfare of our seniors and provide high quality, medically necessary physiotherapy. Yet the minister questions the quality of our treatments by saying that she is switching to one-on-one physiotherapy services and is moving forward with dramatic cuts, without consulting us or our seniors, or their friends or families. This will greatly affect the quality of life of our seniors and have a senior impact on their mental health too – in the long run.

Thank you and Regards,
J.P. Raman, Physiotherapist
Woodstock, Ont.