Province bungles physio changes
Eva Altay broke her hip doing tai chi this past January.
The feisty soon to be 102-year old is now manoeuvring without her walker.
She credits the physio she got three-times weekly — and her resolve — for making that happen.
The native of Budapest said she refused to be confined to a wheelchair, as many her age are resigned to do once they break a hip.
“They worked so hard and did all the exercises with me,” she said of her physiotherapists, showing me her workout when I met her last Friday. “They were very strict.”
Ida Hall, two months shy of 105th(!) birthday, also went to physio three times a week and to exercise classes to keep her mobile.
“I look after myself completely,” the petite former lawn bowler told me proudly. “I try to be as self-confident as I can be.”
I visited with Altay, Hall and some of their fellow residents at St. Hilda’s Towers, a Vaughan Rd. retirement residence, where 151 seniors were abruptly cut off from their physiotherapy treatments last Thursday.
This came as the result of a court ruling permitting the health ministry to proceed with plans to delist OHIP-funded services provided by the Designated Physiotherapy Clinics Association (DPCA).
The changes were supposed to kick in Aug. 1 — until a three-week stay was granted July 26 to allow a DPCA court challenge to be heard by a panel of three judges.
A sign is now posted on the door of the retirement home’s physiotherapy room — fully equipped with treatment beds and exercise equipment and staffed by four DPCA employees — indicating that the local Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) will be taking over the services as mandated by the health ministry.
Health minister Deb Matthews has been pushing the party line that this long overdue program restructuring will expand clinics in northern Ontario and offer increased physiotherapy and exercise classes to 200,000 more seniors in retirement and in long-term care homes and in clinics.
But critics counter that seniors living in retirement homes — who rely on physio to keep them mobile — will now only be eligible for three or four “episode of care” treatments at the CCAC cost of $120 per treatment compared to the 100 treatments per year they are receiving now at the $12.20 per treatment being billed to OHIP.
Rev. Canon Derwyn Shea, CEO of St. Hilda’s Towers, said when the physio at the home closed down, there was a line-up at his door of residents concerned about what was happening.
Shea feels money is taking money away from the GTA to distribute around the province instead of bringing the entire province up to the same standards.
“The level of care my residents were receiving last week ... will be lowered,” he said.
It is obvious from seniors like Hall and Altay that the faceless bureaucrats in the health ministry and Matthews have completely mishandled the transition, and I venture to say, don’t care.
No one at St. Hilda seems to know when that takeover will occur. While CCAC administrators, who knew this was coming since April, have been in the home for “talks,” they have yet to do a single assessment of any of the residents.
It could be weeks before physio resumes, something that really worries Carol Taub, Hall’s daughter.
She says if her mom — who drove until she was 96 and played lawn bowling well into her 90s — doesn’t get physiotherapy regularly she will stiffen up and be bedridden. It will be at least a week or more before Hall is even assessed — and then who knows?
“I’m angry ... mom has been so mobile for so long,” she says. “They (the government) waste money in so many areas and then try to save money in areas that are hurting people.”
Janette Bell, 82, makes no bones about the fact that physio has given her a whole new lease on life after suffering a series of strokes and an aneurysm.
When she first started the treatments nine months ago she couldn’t get out of her wheelchair.
But after one of the home’s physiotherapists showed her how to get out of the wheelchair and balance with a walker, she got her sea legs.
“Now I can walk with a walker with confidence,” she said. “I can get to the dining room on my own.”
Bell adds that she “built up trust” with her physiotherapist and now she’ll have to go through that whole process again.
“I’m angry ... very angry,” she said. “I will continue to do these exercises by myself which I really shouldn’t do ... but I can’t let this stop me from making progress.”
THERE’S 100 REASONS TO CELEBRATE: Monday is a very special day at St. Hilda’s Towers. It will be day of parties in honour of Hall, Altay and 12 other centenarians who are either turning 100 this year or who are already 100 and beyond. It was a thrill to have met some of them last Friday.