To the Editor:
The record of for-profit long-term care homes during COVID is dismal. Some 4,500 seniors have died so far in Ontario’s LTC homes, often (as the army reported) in deplorable conditions. Most of those deaths, we know now, occurred in homes run by corporations like Extendicare and Mike Harris’ Chartwell company.
New research in Ontario is revealing that the rate of people who test positive in for-profit LTC homes is three times higher than the rate in municipally-owned homes. And the death rate in for-profit homes is 25% higher.
The cause, the research tells us, is also clear. During the worst of the pandemic, private for-profit homes had lower staffing levels, they skimped on personal protective equipment, their infection protocols were too lax, and they received more complaints from residents and family.
Nevertheless, in December 2020, in the midst of the COVID tsunami, Extendicare and Sienna Senior Living had both received $157 million in COVID-19 aid from the government. They also made enough money to pay out $74 million to shareholders.
The result? In Ontario, private, facilities have 54% of the beds but 73% of fatalities in LTC. Public homes have 20% of beds but only 6% of deaths. A June 2020 report by the Royal Society of Canada reveals that Canada has by far the highest death rate in nursing homes – 81% to 66% in Spain and 31% in the US.
The government’s solution to the havoc that COVID continues to wreak on our health care system is to build more of what doesn’t work. It has earmarked billions of public money for more LTC homes, with more LTC beds going to corporations than for the whole public sector.
A better solution? Put money into Home Care instead. It’s where people want to be anyway if they are chronically ill or approaching death. The Ontario government has promised $1 billion for Home Care but that will also go mostly to for-profit companies which have a terrible record of missed visits, poor equipment and workers paid far less than they should be.
Poor patient care – whether at home or in an LTC facility puts people in hospital. In other words, private, for-profit corporations don’t save taxpayers’ money. They don’t ease the burden on the public system. And they don’t ease the pain of their patients.
What they do is make money, even in a pandemic.
COVID-19 excess mortality among long-term care residents in Ontario, Canada
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2 Ontario LTC operators got $157M in COVID-19 aid. They also paid $74M to shareholders
Ontario health experts demand province abolish for-profit long-term care
Government is Awarding Thousands of Long-Term Care Beds to For-Profit Chains with Ghastly Records of Death and Suffering: New Coalition Report
Ontario commits to keep funding for-profit long-term care despite pandemic findings
Stuck in bed 23 hours a day: What’s wrong with home care in Canada and how another country changed course