The Ontario government says it's improving access to physiotherapy for seniors with a new funding model that comes into effect August 1st. Retirement and nursing homes, though, are sounding the alarm, saying the changes are going to result in less help for seniors and more trips to the hospital.

At 94, Anna Macdonald is still pretty mobile. She credits physiotherapy sessions that she gets three times a week at the Chateau Glengarry Retirement Home in Alexandria, where she lives.

"It keeps me going and it is so good for your muscles,” says MacDonald, as she works with physiotherapy assistant France Robert.

Almost all the 48 residents at this home in Alexandria receive physiotherapy, in addition to balance classes.  But the Ontario government is changing how it funds physiotherapy to make it more clinic-based. That change has residents and those who provide the treatment worried. 

"I don't think the Ontario government is realizing everything they're taking away from our seniors,” says the administrator of Chateau Glengarry, Diane St. Denis.

France Robert, the physiotherapy assistant with the retirement home, says the changes means she is out of a job.

"I have a feeling there's going to be more falls, more broken hips, more surgery,” says Robert, as she works with a room full of seniors, “it's going to cost the government even more.”

Physiotherapy is the fast growing cost in the health care sector, according to the Ontario government, with an increase of 20% every year.  The government says those cost increases are not sustainable and that change is long overdue.

“The measure of good health care isn’t how much you spend,” says Sheamus Murphy, the Director of Communications for Health Minister Deb Matthews, “but the quality of care patients receive.”                                                                                                                                         The Ontario Physiotherapy Association is on board and believes the changes will actually improve service for seniors.                                                                                                      "Many seniors can't even access services in many parts of the province,” says Amanda Smart, the President of the Ontario Physiotherapy Association, “so the idea of this reform is that there will be increased access across the province.”                                                                                     The administrator of the Community Nursing Home in Alexandria says their physiotherapy is being cut by two hours a week.                                                                                                                                                          "I was under the impression that maintenance was the most important thing so they don't lose their mobility,” says Terry Dube.  The medical director for the nursing home says residents at the nursing home require 24 hour care so physiotherapy is critical to maintaining their mobility.                                                "If mobility is decreased,” says Dr. Valery Rossbach, “patients will be bed ridden more, wheelchair more, end up with more wounds.”

The government promises residents of long term care homes and retirement homes who need physiotherapy will get it but within a limited budget.  Last year, they blew past that budget by $50 million dollars.