House Call with Carol Hughes

Take profits out of long-term care to ensure care is the first consideration

The pandemic has shown Canadians there is a cost for under investment in our health care system. Just ask families who lost their loved ones in long-term care (LTC) facilities across the country. Despite the health-related needs these centres cater to, they are permitted to pursue a business model that limits their ability to care for their residents in order to focus on profits and dividends for shareholders. While the model works well for many business applications, the care of vulnerable individuals is not an appropriate place to create wealth. That’s why New Democrats presented a plan to Parliament recently to take profits out of long-term care and implement a care guarantee for our loved ones in these institutions.

It’s no secret the government campaigned on a promise to LTC workers, residents, and their families to better fund long-term care and seniors’ care before their first term. Since then, they have underfunded health care and prioritized protecting the profits of big corporations and their wealthy shareholders. This came on the heels of decades of cuts that ate into our health care system. There were promises that this government would be different, but in seven years they haven’t reversed Stephen Harper’s cuts to health care transfers or improved long-term care.

New Democrats asked Parliament to fix the broken long-term care system and implement a care gGuarantee by regulating LTC under the authority of the Canada Health Act. That represents a commitment to our loved ones that they will be safe, to families that they can count on their loved ones receiving the care they deserve, and to the workers who care for our loved ones. The best way to ensure those outcomes is to take profit out of long-term care.

The first step we proposed related to the pandemic by creating a rapid response unit to address the disaster in long-term care. The only job of this unit would be to support provinces and territories to save lives in these facilities. It could monitor best practices in Canada and elsewhere and proactively share them with health authorities. Additionally, they would offer to provinces and territories to send the military to assist LTC homes struggling with large outbreaks where staffing has collapsed. This unit would also support provinces and territories to speed up the vaccination rollout to vaccinate LTC residents, front-line staff and essential family caregivers.

Our motion also contained a fix for sick leave to ensure all workers have access to 10 paid sick days when they need them. The initial spread of COVID-19 in LTC could have been reduced if infected workers  who held jobs in more than one facility had this option. Unfortunately, the profit model demands a reduced investment in staffing costs which means a reliance on part-time employees who didn’t have the sick leave they needed to protect themselves and the residents they served.

Those first steps could be done quickly and don’t require a complete overhaul of the LTC system. It will help protect vulnerable individuals immediately while we work toward removing profit from the LTC system in Canada starting with the government owned for-profit Revera properties across the country. These proposals are both reasoned and offer a road map to better care for the vulnerable individuals in the facilities. The government should have been far more interested than they seemed when they argued against and voted down our motion on this proposal earlier this week.

It’s not a stretch to state that every Canadian, of every age, deserves to live in dignity and be treated with respect by their government and the health care system. The challenge is finding ways to make sure that sentiment applies to people who live in LTC facilities. Similarly, families deserve to be confident their loved ones are the priority when they are placed in long-term care.