The CEO of the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration is characterizing previous reports suggesting a program designed to keep seniors and others in their homes is at risk as "miscommunication."
"We are 100% behind the Home First program," Switzer has told LambtonShield.com. Patients have come to understand that they will, whenever possible, be able to receive care in the home and that hasn't changed."
The idea of a projected deficit (currently 7-8% of the total CCAC funding of $118 million) is not unusual, added Switzer.
The number also does not factor in a 4% announced increase in area funding from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, said Switzer.
Added to the dynamic are two important factors: that the CCAC in question covers three jurisdictions (Essex, Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton) and that the projected deficit does not include only Home First.
"We're working with (the CCAC) to understand their deficit," said Switzer. "The idea is to balance their budget by the end of the fiscal year [March 30]; any proposals to change to delivery of programs will be presented by staff to the board."
The additional money being made available by the province will likely be factored in to those discussions.
What won't happen, said Switzer, is any shifting of the priority toward Home First.
"We have an accountability agreement with the CCAC that ensures programs (like Home First) are delivered as they're needed and that budgets are adhered to."
Switzer also said a higher than expected demand for Home First is very much a good thing.
"The word is getting out that Home First is doing what it was intended to do," he said. "Other options, such as being in hospital waiting for a room in a long-term care facility is a much more expensive method of delivery, which is what we're working to reduce."
Switzer said being at home remains the preferred option in a great many cases.
"They're around their own neighbourhood and they have large social networks," he added. "Hospitals aren't designed for people to be there for long periods of time. It's there that we work to get you healthy and recovered. Our job is to make sure people get back home."