Wait list for long-term care beds in Ontario nearly doubled in 10 years

long-term care beds in Ontario

Seniors are waiting longer for beds in long-term care homes across the province, the Ontario Long-Term Care Association (OLTCA) warned, adding their projections show the situation isn’t likely to improve over the next decade.

According to a progress update presented Thursday, there are nearly 40,000 people waiting for long-term care.

“That is more than the populations of a midsize town such as Bradford, Orillia, Stratford, Orangeville, or Leamington,” Donna Duncan, CEO of OLTCA, pointed out in her presentation.

The OLTCA, which represents nearly 70 per cent of the province’s long-term care homes, predicts this could increase to about 48,000 by 2029.

This projection takes 30,000 new long-term spaces already promised by the Ontario government into account.

“We need to prepare for the future growth in our senior population as baby boomers age,” Duncan said.

“We also know that the pace of our population aging is far greater than it’s ever been in the past.”

By 2035, one in four Canadians will be over the age of 65, Duncan said. This means that in the next 10 years, the demand for long-term care will increase by an average of 38 per cent.

The OLTCA cited research showing baby boomers are not planning for the possibility of having complex care needs—which would require further support at a long-term care facility—despite the reality that many will experience them.

According to the association, about 41 per cent of people entering long-term care have high-care needs compared to a decade earlier, and the system’s current staffing and capital models are not designed for providing it.

As it stands now, Duncan says staffing is at a “critical point.”

By 2029, long-term care homes in Ontario will need at least 58,600 more nurses and personal support workers to meet increased demand, the OLTCA said.

“That is more than double our current workforce,” Duncan said. “We need to be planning for that future demand.”

Minister of Long-Term Care Paul Calandra told the province is on track to meet demand and carry out an average of four hours of direct care every day by 2025, which he says will require 27,000 additional health-care workers.

“The building out of long term care is one facet of care for Ontarians as they age,” he said. “It’s about having long-term care available to people, but also having care available to people where they want it. And that has to include a more robust home care as well.”

“When you put all of it together, we’re very confident that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Calandra said the new facilities being built by the Progressive Conservatives are also attracting more people back into long-term care.

“What we’re doing really building it–I hate to use the word because I think it just gets overused—but it is really an integrated system.”

The OLTCA presentation comes as the entire health-care sector, including long-term care, experiences staffing shortages. In September, a union representing frontline health-care workers said 15,000 new hires were needed in 2022 to maintain patient care and service levels in Greater Toronto Area hospitals. That number tripled to 46,000 hospital workers when taking all of Ontario into account.

“These numbers are based on existing vacancies, turnover rates, and to meet the pressures of population growth aging,” Dave Verch, vice-president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions within the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said at the time.

Duncan said she understands hiring 58,600 new nurses and PSWs is a “huge number to meet,” especially considering it often takes four years to educate a nurse.

“We know it’s going to take bolder and more creative options,” she said, noting the provincial government has already taken action to speed up the process for international nurses. “This is daunting and it really does require urgent mobilization on the part of all levels of government.”

As part of its commitment to stabilize the health-care system in Ontario, the Doug Ford government pledged to hire 6,000 new nurses, as well as invest in private clinic surgeries and pass legislation allowing hospitals to free up beds by transferring patients waiting for long-term care spots. Speaking at a news conference earlier this week, the premier said more than 60,000 nurses have been hired since 2018.

However, critics say while its true nurses are being hired in Ontario, many are also leaving the profession.

“You can pour water into a bucket, but for as long as there are massive holes at the bottom, that are allowing water to seep out that bucket will never fill,” Liberal MPP Dr. Adil Shamji told on Wednesday.

“Nurses, however quickly they’re being brought in are leaving just as quickly.”

The OLTCA said in their presentation that between 2019 and 2020, Ontario had the highest caregiver distress rate in Canada.


The Ontario government previously promised to create 30,000 new long-term care beds and re-develop another 30,000 by 2028.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Long-Term Care said the investment is “the largest long-term care capital investment in Ontario’s history” at a price tag of about $6.4 billion.

An elderly person can be seen lying in a bed.

In May 2021, the Financial Accountability Office found the government would not meet its goal of opening half of those spaces by 2024.

Months later, the Ford government announced it was providing additional funding subsidies to support the cost of developing or redeveloping a long-term care home. In a statement sent to on Thursday evening, a spokesperson said this will “help fast-track the construction of thousands of new long-term care beds across the province by the end of this summer.”

The government also touted a $1 billion investment in home care over the next three years, which they say will benefit nearly 700,000 families.

“These investments will also prevent unnecessary hospital and long-term care admissions, ensuring healthcare capacity is available for those who need it,” Jake Roseman, spokesperson for the minister, said.

“Our government policies, including investments in home care and the introduction of the community paramedicine program, ensure that our seniors have a multitude of platforms from which they can draw support to get the right care in the right place.”

Roseman did not say whether the Progressive Conservative government intends on changing its policies or committing to the creation of further beds in their upcoming budget.

MPP Wayne Gates, who acts as the NDP’s long-term care critic, told the government needs to focus more on building a system to provide the best care rather than profit.

“The first thing we need to do is get the profit out of long-term care,” he said. “The minute you do that, more money will be invested into care instead of to a shareholder that’s already making thousands, sometimes millions, of dollars.”

Gates added that stopping the appeal of Bill 124—legislation that capped the pay of public sector workers, including nurses, for a three-year period—and ensuring staff is compensated fairly would go a long way towards filling the staffing gaps.