It’s estimated that half a million Canadians over the age of 35 have been diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a condition that often leads to shortness of breath and other symptoms. It’s the fourth leading cause of death in Canada and accounts for almost 13 percent of all hospitalizations.

Life with a chronic lung condition isn’t always easy, but thanks to home respiratory services, patients can be treated in the comfort of their own homes and incorporate respiratory therapy into their everyday lives. Home oxygen therapy is available for patients with conditions like COPD, as are CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines for the millions of Canadians who suffer from sleep apnea.

In Ontario, the premier providers of home respiratory services are all members of the Ontario Home Respiratory Services Association (OHRSA). According to Shane Walsh, Chair of the OHRSA’s Board of Directors, the demand for home respiratory services is growing, and patients need to know their options.

“The prevalence of COPD is increasing with our aging population,” he says. “When home respiratory therapy is prescribed, our members meet with the client to develop a treatment plan that makes the most sense for them. We also help to ensure client safety by monitoring them on a regular basis and responding to emergencies 24 hours a day.”

Competition is a win for clients

Rick Gautreau, a member of the OHRSA’s board, says fair access to home respiratory services is absolutely critical — both for patients and the industry as a whole. He notes that every patient has a right to free and informed choice from the service providers available in their community.

“Ontario has a very highly-regarded home respiratory program that promotes innovation and encourages companies to provide the best clinical and technical services,” he says. “The provincial government funds the program and sets the pricing, and then approved companies compete based on service quality. This pushes competition into the market, so the choice of which provider the patient wishes to receive care from is entirely theirs.”

When patients are empowered with choice, they’re much more likely to have a positive experience with home respiratory therapy. OHRSA encourages people to research the service providers in their communities, find out the expertise of their staff, ask about the equipment they offer, and determine which services best fit their situation.

And if you’re not happy with the service, don’t hesitate to explore the other options in your community and take advantage of those that best meet your needs.

“It’s about more than just supplying a machine — our service providers have the clinical expertise to provide education and support, monitor the patient’s progress, and collaborate with other health care professionals to maximize independence and comfort. We’re always pushing the envelope to be better,” says Gautreau. “Many people on oxygen therapy lead very active lives, with some even working full-time. We want to give people the life they want to live. The image of the frail person needing oxygen therapy is not what it’s like anymore.”

See below for a list of respiratory service providers in Ontario.