Long-term care refers to a wide range of supported living and nursing care arrangements for seniors, elderly persons and those with severe or prolonged disabilities in Canada. These facilities employ a spectrum of highly trained staff who provide medical and social supports to their clients.
Yet after decades of funding cuts, privatization and deregulation, private, for-profit long-term care has become a national embarrassment. This is not the fault of hard-working, dedicated health care workers in the industry. Years of corner-cutting, cheapened service delivery, staffing shortages, price gouging and other forms of corporate profiteering have turned long-term care an utter disaster for seniors and others who need to rely on these services throughout the country.
During the COVID-19 crisis, a bad situation was made even worse as the pandemic compounded the effects caused by private for-profit long-term care. It highlighted how the problem can no longer be ignored.
Statistics from the National Institute on Aging show that 82 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Canada occurred at long-term care facilities. 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 with those in publicly-owned homes (82).
It shows, once again, that for vital public services like health care, profit is not the cure. It is the disease, and it needs to end now. It is time that people are put before profit and long-term care be placed under the Canada Health Act and offered as a public service, paid for by progressive taxation based on ability to pay.
In addition, a national, coordinated long-term care strategy must be implemented in all provinces and territories that puts protections in place. Through increased funding and oversight, the new publicly-owned system must ensure there are enough long-term workers, supports and resources to provide world-leading, quality care that seniors and those with disabilities deserve.
All seniors in Canada should be guaranteed to enjoy their golden years in good health, safety and security, and people with disabilities should be guaranteed proper and decent care. Supporting a universal, long-term care system for some of our most vulnerable will provide more than just a basic necessity, but a sense of community that energizes and empowers them.