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MS patient in hospital since 2017 finally goes home

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An Ottawa woman confined to hospital because of a care worker shortage is finally being allowed to go home, months after doctors first said she could.

Christine Benoit, 44, has multiple sclerosis and uses a motorized wheelchair. She’s been a patient at Saint-Vincent Hospital since having an operation for leg spasms in October 2017.

Nearly a year later, in August 2018, doctors told her she was healthy enough to be discharged, but the support she needed at home wasn’t available.

Before going into the hospital, Benoit required two personal support workers (PSWs), three times a day, to help her get out of bed, get dressed, make meals, and get back into bed each night.

However, changes made to her wheelchair in November cut that requirement down from two PSWs to just one.

Even that initially appeared to be too many. But over the holidays, the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) — which oversees health care in the Ottawa area — called Benoit and said they’d found enough workers.

That meant Benoit would finally be going home.

Christine Benoit headed home from hospital on Thursday, approximately five months after doctors said she could be safely discharged. A shortage of home care workers had prevented her from leaving. 0:39

PSW shortage to blame, LHIN says

“I’m free!” she said Thursday afternoon, as she was getting ready to leave the hospital.

“I’m beyond over-the-moon ecstatic. I would rip off my clothes and go do the polar bear swim [if I could], just to match my energy.”

That excitement has been a long time coming. Just weeks ago, Benoit had considered filing a human rights complaint if she wasn’t released from the hospital this year.

Benoit said she’s still mulling the possibility of filing the complaint, but right now she plans to focus on enjoying being in her own apartment and bed.

She said she’ll be receiving help from one PSW three times a day: in the morning, at supper and in the evening.

In a statement, the Champlain LHIN blamed a province-wide shortage of PSWs for delays in getting people out of hospital and back home.

As of Thursday, there were currently 11 people still waiting in hospitals across the region because of a lack of PSWs to meet their needs, the LHIN wrote. Nine of those people had been waiting between three and 14 days.

“We deeply regret the problems this has created for clients and their caregivers,” the statement said.

Benoit previously required two personal support workers to care for her in her home, but modifications made to her motorized wheelchair mean she now only needs one. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

‘Be the squeaky wheel’

Benoit believes she wouldn’t be headed home if it wasn’t for the public pressure that came after CBC News first aired her story.

“I had to micromanage my entire exit, pretty much,” Benoit said, adding she doesn’t want people in similar situations to give up hope.

“Make sure that you’re on top of it, and don’t rely on anybody else. Keep strong and keep on them,” she said. “You’re not bothering them. Be the squeaky wheel.”

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Federal Budget 2021: Ottawa adds $1B to broadband fund for rural, remote communities

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The federal government will add $1 billion to a fund for improving high-speed communications in rural and remote areas of Canada, bringing the total to $2.75 billion by 2026, the Liberals said Monday in their first full budget since the pandemic began last year.

The money is going to the Universal Broadband Fund, which is designed to support the installation of “backbone” infrastructure that connects underserved communities to high-speed internet.

It’s one of many government and private-sector initiatives that have gained urgency since the pandemic began, as Canadians became more dependent on internet service for applications ranging from e-learning to daily business operations.

Ottawa says the additional money will keep it on track to have high-speed broadband in 98 per cent of the country by 2026, and 100 per cent by 2030.

Money spent on high-speed communications will be good for a recovering economy, said Pedro Antunes, chief economist at the Conference Board of Canada, a non-partisan think-tank.

The latest data from Statistics Canada says there were about five million people working from home during the pandemic, up from about two million prior to that, Antunes said in an interview.

“That’s a quarter or so of the workforce,” he added. “And I think a fair number of those people are going to continue to work from home, at least in some part-time way.”

Improved connections to high-speed broadband and mobile communications will add to the productive capacity of the economy overall, especially as it reaches beyond Canada’s cities, Antunes said.

He said there’s been a “real issue” with economic growth outside major urban centres and the improved connectivity “is something that can help stimulate that.”

The Universal Broadband Fund was initially mentioned in the 2019 budget, though specifics were not available until last November’s fiscal update.

The $1-billion top-up to the broadband fund announced today is in addition to $1.75 billion promised to the fund by the federal government’s November fiscal update.

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COVID-19: What you need to know for April 19

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Provincewide

  • Per today’s government report, there are 4,447 new cases in Ontario, for a total of 421,442 since the pandemic began; 2,202 people are in hospital, 755 of them in intensive care, and 516 on ventilators. To date, 7,735 people have died.
  • According to data from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, there are 40 outbreaks in long-term-care facilities, 36 confirmed active cases of positive residents, and 127 confirmed active cases of positive staff. To date, there have been 3,755 confirmed resident deaths and 11 confirmed staff deaths.
  • Per the government’s report on Ontario’s vaccination program, as of 7 p.m. yesterday, Ontario has administered 66,897 new doses of COVID-19 vaccines, for a total of 3,904,778 since December 2020. 3,212,768 people have received only one dose, and 346,005 people have received both doses.

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Federal budget 2021 highlights: Child care, recovery benefits, OAS increases – everything you need to know

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The federal government’s first budget in more than two years certainly looks the part: At 739 pages, it is a hefty document chock full of billions in new spending.

Those funds will be spread among a number of key groups – students, seniors, parents and small-business owners, to name a few – as Ottawa looks to bolster Canada’s recovery from COVID-19 but also plan for life beyond the pandemic.

To that end, the deficit is projected to hit $354.2-billion in the 2020-21 fiscal year, which just ended – better than expected about five months ago, given the economy’s resilience over the winter months. It is estimated to fall to $154.7-billion this fiscal year, before dropping further in the years to come as pandemic spending recedes from view.

Here are some of the highlights from Monday’s budget.

The budget outlines tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for a national child-care program, a promise the Liberal Party has made in some form since the early 1990s. Child-care supports became a point of national debate during pandemic lockdowns as parents with young children struggled to juggle work and family responsibilities.

In total, the government proposes spending as much as $30-billion over the next five years, and $8.3-billion each year after that, to bring child-care fees down to a $10-a-day average by 2026. The proposal, which requires negotiation with the provinces and territories, would split subsidies evenly with those governments and targets a 50-per-cent reduction in average child-care fees by the end of 2022.

The federal program is largely modelled on Quebec’s subsidized child-care system, implemented in the 1990s in an effort to increase women’s access to the labour market. Since then, labour participation rates for women aged 25 to 54 in the province have grown to exceed the national average by four percentage points.

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