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Coalition Against Government’s For-Profit LongTerm Care Strategy

Posted: December 1, 2021

By: Bill Hornbostel

Recently, the Ontario Health Coalition held a series of press conferences around Ontario to publicize their new report, “Public Money, Private Profit: The Ford Government & the Privatization of the Next Generation of Ontario’s Long-Term Care.” (Link: here).

A recent conference featured speakers from Northumberland, Durham, and Kawartha Lakes, including Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas from the Northumberland Labour Council and Campbellford resident Dorlene Lin, as well as Zac Miller from the Kawartha Lakes Health Network, Charlie Courneyea from the Durham Health Network, and others who had lost family members COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

Zac Miller

“What the Ford government is doing right now,” said Miller, “is the continuation of the privatization of long-term care and continuing to give licenses to the for-profit companies running these facilities who have a terrible record that has been exposed because of COVID-19.”

Mackenzie-Nicholas, noting that for-profit long-term care homes make up twenty percent of Canadian facilities overall but 57% in Ontario, said, The for-profit homes had outbreaks with nearly twice as many residents infected and 78% more resident deaths compared with not-for-profit homes.”

Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas

“In Ontario, chronic underfunding is driven by a focus on cost-containment and profit due to steep growth in health care costs associated with an aging population,” continued Mackenzie-Nicholas. Stating that about 4,000 long-term care residents in Ontario died because of COVID-19, she said, “COVID has made a bad situation that much worse.”

Turning to Northumberland, Mackenzie-Nicholas stated, “The private, for-profit sector has been granted funding for the operation of 394 new beds, while the not-for-profit sector… will be provided less than half of that at 180.” She spoke about two of the three companies which operate in Northumberland: Southbridge and Omni.

According to Mackenzie-Nicholas Southbridge in Ontario has the highest pandemic death rate at nine residents per 100. This compares to the average among for profits of 3.6. Non-profits had a death rate of 2.8, while public municipal homes had a death rate of 1.4%.

“A number of Southbridge homes are on the top thirty list of long-term care homes with the most reported violations over the last five years, including those in process for new licenses,” said Mackenzie-Nicholas. “Southbridge was cited for infection control violations in its home and Thunder Bay, along with homes in London, Pickering, Port Hope, Port Perry, and Owen Sound. Southbridge is also facing a class-action lawsuit for gross negligence and other lawsuits. Families describe severe malnourishment, dehydration and poor care in Southbridge homes,” she added.

About Omni, Mackenzie-Nicholas said, “It wasn’t as bad as Southbridge, but still has a record during COVID… that was much worse than not-for-profit.”

Dorlene Lin

Lin moved to Campbellford in 2019. Both of her parents were already in long-term care in Toronto at Chartwell Gibson, but she moved her father to care homes in Northumberland. “I hesitate to talk about staff within the homes themselves… I think many of them are doing the best they can they are under a corporate structure and employment guidelines that perhaps forced them into particular situations,” she said.

Lin spoke about issues she saw with Pleasant Meadow Manor (run by Omni in Norwood), Warkworth Place (run by Southbridge), and Chartwell Gibson (run by Chartwell): major construction at Pleasant Meadow Manor, chronic understaffing, staff scrambling to pick up shifts in different homes, lack of worker benefits, lack of PPE, different vaccination policies for residents and staff.

Lin said, “I find it galling, to say the very least, that the Ford government would consider giving new licenses to the for-profit homes that had such terrible records,” said Lin. “It doesn’t make any sense to accept a system where the corporate owners are able to give their shareholders profits at a time when we all know that they should have spent that money through the pandemic, making sure that their staff and the residents are safe.”

June Morrison spoke about the death of her father in Orchard Villa in Pickering (run by Southbridge), where she says at least 70 residents died and 155 others were diagnosed with COVID-19, and where the military was sent to intervene to provide care.

June Morrison

Morrison spoke of issues with understaffing and inadequate care before the pandemic, and during the pandemic of repeated attempts to move her father to a private room, clandestine contacts with staff members, and her father’s death in May 2020. Morrison said that at his death, her father George “was diagnosed with COVID-19, was dehydrated, had a UTI, and was noted as anorexic; he looked like a prisoner of war.”

Near the end of the press conference, Courneyea spoke about how the public could help. “We got an election coming up next year. We’re going to keep forcing the issue on these guys and make them look bad because of what they’ve done here,” he said. “We’re going town to town to town all across Ontario with the Health Coalition, to make people aware of the whole issue behind these guys. We are going to make this a fight that they can’t win.”

MPP Piccini Responds:

In a statement after the press conference, MPP for Northumberland-Peterborough South said, “In a study on COVID-19 in Long-Term Care homes published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the authors noted that the likelihood of an outbreak was driven by geographic region, and that severity was driven by the age of the home. One of the authors of that study, Dr. Nathan Stall, was recently quoted: ‘… it’s more nuanced than, ‘All for-profit is bad; all non-profit is good.’’” (Link: “For-profit long-term care homes and the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks and resident deaths”).

Piccini added that the Ontario government is offering loan guarantees for not-for-profit long-term care homes, to help them get development loans from Infrastructure Ontario. “Securing financing is a long-standing challenge to development faced by not-for-profit operators in the long-term care sector. The Not-for-Profit Loan guarantee will unlock $388 million in lending from IO and reduce borrowing costs for approved not-for-profit operators, saving them approximately $62 million,” he said.

Editor’s Note: The Ontario Health Coalition, Durham Health Coalition, Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition and Northumberland Health Coalition were joined by families of loved ones in for-profit long-term care during the release of its report: Public Money Private Profit: The Ford Government & the Privatization of the Next Generation of Ontario’s Long-Term Care on Thurs., Dec. 2.

The report features regional and local information about new and redeveloped long-term care beds being awarded to for-profit companies regionally, tying the record of operators to family members of residents who have died or are currently living in for-profit long-term care.

Speakers at the Zoom meeting included:

Zac Miller: Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition Co-Chair
Charlie Courneyea: Durham Health Coalition Co-Chair
Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas: Northumberland Health Coalition Chair
Cathy Parkes whose father passed at Orchard Villa, Pickering
Jan Paul-Tibensky whose mother has been in three for-profit LTC homes
Maureen McDermott whose mother passed at River Glen Haven, Sutton
June Morrison whose father passed at Orchard Villa, Pickering
Dorlene Lin whose father is in Warkworth Place

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