Community Care Access Centres – And Why They May Not Be For You

On the surface, Ontario’s Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) are a good idea, particularly if you have suffered a significant personal injury. Originally founded in 1996, they were designed to decrease the health care load to hospitals by facilitating independent, community living.  However, serious issues have arisen that jeopardize the CCAC’s ability to provide the support and service the public requires.

In a perfect world, CCACs would provide community-based assistance to those who have suffered disabilities from personal injury or illness, regardless of age or circumstance.  This assistance includes assessing and coordinating access to government-funded health care programs for CCAC clients, providing nursing help and support, and facilitating independent living.  In many ways, the CCACs are just facilitators – most, if not all, of their services are contracted out to various providers, and much of their role involves matching up patients and clients to the services they require.

Unfortunately, the CCAC system is underfunded, creating a number of issues.  The funding for each of the 14 CCACs across Ontario varies from location to location – it is also based on the funding levels from the previous year, rather than what is required to meet current patient and client needs.  With the patient list for CCACs increasing every year at a higher rate than the funding, the system is unable to keep up.

This lack of funding results in a number of weaknesses in the system.  Since each CCAC is required to maintain a balanced budget, hours of care for patients and clients are often restricted to cut costs.  This can leave patients who need several hours of care from a qualified health care provider only receiving a handful per week.  When there is a family member to assist, local CCACs have pressured them to take on the duties of a registered nurse, such as changing dressings and IV bags, and providing nursing care, while cutting back on the professional care provided.  This lack of required support is difficult to rectify.

All of this assumes that a patient or client can even get into the CCAC system.  With so little funding available per patient, each CCAC has to undergo a triage, providing services only to those in the most need.  The triage itself is based on the budget and policies of each individual CCAC, meaning that whether a condition is serious enough to warrant CCAC support depends as much on one’s postal code as one’s health.  And, should a patient’s condition no longer be considered serious enough to warrant support, the local CCAC can discontinue providing care or assistance egardless of whether the condition itself has actually changed.

Making matters worse is a lack of transparency.  The CCAC system is not subject to freedom of information laws, making information on policy and procedure difficult to acquire.  And, the Board of Directors of each individual CCAC sets its own policy on information sharing and transparency.  This can leave prospective patients or clients lost in a sometimes Byzantine system with little guidance on how to expedite the process, or on what criteria their condition will be judged.

When one receives help from a Community Care Access Centre, it can make things better.  The services and support that they can offer is valuable to those who have suffered from a debilitating personal injury or illness.  However, help from a CCAC is not a substitute for a proper care and rehabilitation program fully funded through insurance or a personal injury settlement.  A person injured in a motor vehicle accident is not required to access the CCAC before first using accident benefits available through a motor vehicle policy of insurance.  This is an important distinction that is often overlooked or is unappreciated!   If you have suffered from a personal injury and require care, you are best served by using all of the resources at your disposal – from insurance to disability coverage to CCAC support – to facilitate your rehabilitation and recovery.

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