A homicide in a Toronto seniors’ home is raising questions about long-term care home capacity in Ontario, where demand is expected to grow significantly over the next decade as the so-called Baby Boomer generation ages.

A recent report from the province’s auditor general on wait times for beds in such facilities revealed a growing demand that is already taxing the system: the average wait is 98 days – a number that has almost tripled since 2005. The report also found that 15 per cent of people on long-term care wait lists die before ever receiving accommodation.

Additionally, Ontario’s population of those over 75 years of age is expected to grow by almost 30 per cent by 2021, creating an even bigger need for elderly care. 

Simply building more long-term care facilities is not the answer, say experts on aging. 

Tamara Daly, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research chair and an associate professor of Health at York University, said government should be addressing staffing levels at long-term care facilities, where workers are few and still overburdened by paperwork and government red tape.

 “It’s not simply that we need more beds; we need better staffing to make sure that once people are in facilities that the care is good quality,” Daly said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca.

Daly said there are fewer staff today in long-term care facilities than there were 10 to 15 years ago. 

“You have fewer staff, you have higher care needs and you have more paperwork,” Daly said. “So you kind of have a perfect storm.”

Daly said as demand increases, the public long-term care system will end up being reserved for those most in need, while those who can afford it will turn to the private, for-profit retirement homes.

“A lot of people are being forced to choose retirement homes and they’re paying a lot out of pocket, and so systems that they’ve paid into all their lives are not necessarily there for them when they need it.”

Amid growing demand for more community supports, which may allow seniors to live at home longer, the ruling Ontario Liberals said it is responding with increased funding for the province’s Community Care Access Centres and Community Support Services.

According a Seniors’ Strategy report submitted to the minister of Health and Long-Term Care last December, the investments have allowed wait lists to be reduced by 6,400 patients.

In an email to CTV News, a spokesperson for Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care said the government has also opened 10,000 long-term care beds and has added 10,000 more staff to its long-term care homes.

Current staffing levels are also raising questions of safety in long-term care facilities.

In a statement on the death of a senior attacked by another resident at Wexford Retirement Home in Scarborough, Ont., on Thursday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) renewed its appeal to Ontario’s health minister for increased care and staffing levels.

Wexford Retirement Home resident Joycelyn Dickson died Thursday after an alleged attack by a fellow resident. A third resident, a 92-year-old woman, was left with injuries to her face but is expected to recover.

Peter Brooks, 72, has been charged with second-degree murder and aggravated assault.

Candace Rennick, secretary-treasurer for CUPE Ontario, said Ontario is not providing a level of care that is safe, adequate or dignified.

 “Provincial funding for (long-term care) must increase to prevent more tragic deaths, and the Liberal government must fulfill a commitment from 2003 to enact a minimum care standard," said Rennick.

CUPE members who work in the sector say that often there is only one personal support worker overnight and 24 to 30 patients per floor, and one registered nurse for every three floors.

CUPE is also calling on Ontario’s health minister to call a coroner’s inquest into the Wexford beating death.