Chapter 3: Different health care needs

The health care needs of Ontarians are different than they were even a generation before, and this is contributing to the problem of hallway health care.  One example of how patient profiles and health care needs are shifting is among residents in long-term care homes. These patients have changed in recent years, in ways that make caring for them more complex. The typical long-term care home resident in the province is over the age of 85, has chronic health care conditions – like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or circulatory diseases, and dementia – and generally needs extensive help with personal care.footnote 18 Taken together, these conditions are expected to put significant strain on health care resources.

Hospitals are also experiencing a shift in the health care needs among patients, including an increase in patients admitted to general internal medicine.  In a study of seven hospital sites in the Greater Toronto Area, it was found that general internal medicine patients accounted for about 39% of emergency department admissions and roughly 24% of all hospital bed-days. Additionally, those admitted into general internal medicine had a median number of 6 co-existing conditions, which means they require a lot of medical support and resources.footnote 19

In general, there are more patients of all ages and abilities, with complex rehabilitation and mental health and addictions needs who could benefit from additional support in the community. Given the specific health care needs of an aging population, home care services are now supporting an increasingly complex client base that requires more assistance than before. Although the province has invested significant resources in the past to helping Ontarians stay in their home as they age, these patients are living longer and getting to the point now where they are experiencing a decline in their ability to perform activities of daily living.

The Council is committed to ensuring that Ontarians are supported and empowered to live their fullest life. It is important that our health care system contributes in a meaningful way to help individuals – patients, and caregivers alike – to live well and to the best of their abilities.  As the population ages, and the profile of patients receiving home and community services changes, the system must respond and provide the right level of support in the right location to achieve these goals.

Spotlight: Fair access to health care

With technological advances, medical breakthroughs, and an increased awareness among the general population about how to live a healthy lifestyle – there’s some good news – the average life expectancy in Ontario has increased across most of the province.footnote 20

Unfortunately, health outcomes do not look the same everywhere in Ontario. For example, there are geographic, socio-economic, and sex differences in mortality rates across the province, which is just one way to measure the health of a population.footnote 21

Another example of where there is still more work to be done to improve health outcomes is in Ontario’s north. In northern communities, the average life expectancy is lower than the rest of the province and people living there are more likely to die prematurely due to circulatory disease, respiratory disease, and suicide.footnote 22

As the Council continues its work and develops recommendations to help improve health outcomes and solve the problem of hallway health care in Ontario, it will consider the unique health care needs and cultural considerations of distinct populations in the province, including, Indigenous people and French-speaking individuals.