County seniors deserve better access to physiotherapy, says group
Registered physiotherapist Merle Duchesne, left, works with Louie Baioff, a resident at Seasons Royal Oak Village Retirement Community in LaSalle, Ontario, on February 20, 2013. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)
There are potentially thousands of seniors in the county who don’t get free OHIP-covered physiotherapy like Louie Baioff does, even though they’re entitled to it.
Baioff, 79, has problems with his legs and balance and needs physio three times a week – muscle strengthening, balance work – so he doesn’t fall, break a hip and end up in hospital or long-term care.
“Of course,” Baioff says when asked if physio is essential to his well-being. “Because if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Like all Ontarians 65 and over, he’s entitled to OHIP-covered physio if his doctor refers him. And he gets it because he resides at LaSalle’s Seasons Royal Oak Village retirement home, where OHIP-covered physio is available.
Louie Baioff, a resident at Seasons Royal Oak Village Retirement Community in LaSalle, Ontario on February 20, 2013. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)
If he lived on his own across the road from the retirement home, he’d have to go to one of only three OHIP-covered physio clinics in the region. Two are in Windsor and one is in Tecumseh, meaning a long trip for people living in areas like Amherstburg, Essex, Kingsville and especially Leamington.
Nicole Mastronardi, a physiotherapy assistant at Renew Physiotherapy in Leamington, said the lack of an OHIP-covered physio clinic in Leamington means many seniors go without because they must either pay out-of-pocket for private physio in town, or commute to Windsor several times a week.
“It’s especially (difficult) for the older population, a lot of them who’ve had knee and hip replacements can’t even drive for the first six weeks,” she said. She said many seniors weigh the cost and hassle of going to Windsor against the price of private physio ($80 for the initial visit, then $40 for follow-ups), and end up going with private, but attend less often — perhaps once a week instead of three times — to save money.
It’s a scenario that the group representing OHIP-funded clinics, called the Designated Physiotherapy Clinics Association, wants to change.
Tina Bashai during a press conference about seniors and physiotherapy at Seasons Royal Oak Village Retirement Community in LaSalle, Ontario on February 20, 2013. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)
“It’s about fairness,” said Tina Bishai, a board member from Toronto who came to LaSalle Wednesday to trumpet her organization’s proposal to make physio more accessible to seniors outside of urban areas.
Rather than set up new clinics, it’s proposing that the Ontario government let seniors get their physio from the long-term care homes and retirement residences in their towns that are already providing it to their own residents.
“We really believe it’s the smart thing to do and the right thing to do,” said Bishai, whose members get $12.20 per visit from the government. She contends that the cost of making physio more available to seniors would be largely offset by the savings from reduced demand for long-term care beds and hospital admissions.
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“We’re already providing OHIP-designated physiotherapy service in hundreds of retirement homes and long-term care homes throughout Ontario,” Bishai said. “Why not leverage that existing infrastructure and open the doors to seniors in the community? These homes would become the hub for seniors in the community.”
The number of OHIP-licensed clinics in the province has been frozen at 94 since the 1960s. The DPCA is making a number of presentations across the province calling on the province to adopt its plan to have OHIP-funded physio available at long-term care and retirement homes.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health, David Jensen, said Wednesday the ministry is looking at the DPCA’s proposal to see how it fits with the ministry’s Action Plan for Health Care, which includes a seniors strategy “with a focus on providing more care closer to home.” He said the government wants to implement the seniors strategy over the coming months.
Danielle Stevenson, general manager for Seasons Royal Oak Village Retirement Community in LaSalle, Ontario, on February 20, 2013. (JASON KRYK/The Windsor Star)