NDP leader says Canada must put an end to privately owned long-term care homes

"Profit should not be the motive when it comes to how we care for our seniors." — Jagmeet Singh, NDP Leader

Ottawa (12 May 2020) — As reported by CTV News, New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jagmeet Singh is calling for an end to privatized long-term care and the establishment of a universal framework for seniors care. In addition to bringing long-term care under the Canada Health Act, Singh advocated for abolishing privately run homes all together.

"I think we need to end them, I think there’s no question about it given the results we’re seeing, the evidence we’re seeing that some of the worst conditions that seniors are in and some of the highest deaths have happened in the for-profit long-term care homes," said Singh. "Profit should not be the motive when it comes to how we care for our seniors."

Call to bring long-term care under the Canada Health Act echoed across the country

On April 17, the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) raised the issue of bringing long-term care under the Canada Health Act in a letter to the Prime Minister.  In his letter Larry Brown, NUPGE President argued that the change would be a concrete step to ensuring that the privatization of residential care facilities does not come at the expense of residents and staff.

"I am calling on your government to extend the provisions of the Canada Health Act to include Canada’s residential care facilities. By doing so, you would ensure that they must meet the 5 principles of the CHA: public administration, accessibility, comprehensiveness, universality and portability," wrote Brown.

The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) has echoed the call. In a web post dated May 8, CLC President Hassan Yussuff said, “This pandemic has laid bare the consequences of decades of funding cuts and privatization in the long-term care sector. The tragedy we’re seeing is a direct result of the move to a for-profit model. Long-term care must be offered as a public service.” The CLC also published Lessons from a Pandemic: Union Recommendations for Transforming Long-Term Care in Canada, which lists a number of recommendations to help overhaul Canada’s long-term care system.

Statistics highlight the drastic difference between long-term care models

Canadians have good reason to be critical of how long-term care homes have handled the crisis. Reported by The Star, the numbers from the National Institute on Aging show that 82 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada occurred at long-term care facilities. But that statistic deserves more attention.

In their study of 93 long-term care homes in Ontario, the Ontario Health Coalition found that 66 percent of deaths occurred in (privately owned) for-profit homes. The 700 deaths that occurred in for-profit homes contrast sharply with those in non-profit homes (275) and especially those in publicly owned homes (82).

Deaths could have been prevented

Though tragic, the high death counts in private long-term care facilities don’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention. With decades of research and real world, supporting evidence, it’s clear that the patchwork system is not serving our seniors.

“Let’s be very clear: the pandemic is nowhere close to over,” said Brown. “Authorities are bracing for continued outbreaks. But the reality is, even when things start improving for the general public, without a standardized long-term care system in Canada, our seniors in long-term care will continue to live in high risk environments. Action needs to be taken now to ensure the preventable deaths of seniors and the workers who care for them do not occur.”