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Coalition calls for more non-profit LTC beds in northeast (updated)

Posted: December 4, 2021

(December 3, 2021)

By: Colleen Romaniuk, The Sudbury Star

Photo illustration

Photo illustration PHOTO BY METRO CREATIVE

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that Al Dupuis is the former co-chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition.

The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) is sounding the alarm on the Ford government’s plan to allocate tens of thousands of long-term care beds to for-profit homes in the province.

According to a report published by the coalition this week, more than 12,000 of those beds will be awarded to private long-term care homes with what it claims is some of the most “horrific” track records during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Sudbury Health Coalition joined its partners in Blind River and North Bay on Friday during a virtual press conference to discuss the findings of the report titled Public Money Private Profit: The Ford Government & the Privatization of the Next Generation of Ontario’s Long-Term Care.

During the press conference, the coalition accused Premier Doug Ford of putting private for-profit interests before proper care for the elderly.

The OHC called on the government “to build and license long-term care beds as public, non-profit entities operated in the public interest.”

“Many of these beds are being awarded to some of the for-profit providers who had the most egregious, terrible records during the pandemic,” said Al Dupuis, former co-chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition.

“They will continue to make profits if they are successful at getting these licenses at the expense of seniors and other vulnerable people in Ontario. We think there’s no way this should be happening.”

According to the OHC’s report, the Ontario government is midway through allotting tens of thousands of new long-term care beds in 30-year license deals as many existing licenses are set to expire over the next five years.

About 46,000 beds are slated to be built and licensed by 2024-25 with an additional 15,000 new beds added roughly four to five years later.

In context, Ontario’s current capital stock of long-term beds is about 77,000.

“Many of the projects have not yet received final approval and the for-profit privatization of them can still be stopped,” said the report.

“These licenses will result in the next generation of privatized for-profit long-term care unless public outrage is sufficient to force the government to stop it.”

Sudbury Health Coalition Co-Chair Dot Klein said there are four new long-term care licenses currently in process in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts and Extendicare has applied for two licenses.

“Half of the licenses coming to my region are going to a for-profit,” she said.

Extendicare’s first proposal suggests upgrading 256 existing beds at Extendicare Falconbridge and moving them to a new building site on Algonquin Road.

Klein said that consultation on this project has closed, but the Ministry of Long-Term Care has not yet announced an official decision on its website.

“However, Extendicare had a ground-breaking (ceremony) and announced it was beginning construction on the project last November, making it appear that the project was approved and moving ahead,” said the OHC’s report.

The second proposal suggests building a new 320-bed home with 54 new assisted living spaces as well as 266 upgraded beds from the 288 existing beds at Extendicare York.

The new home would be located at Bancroft Drive and Nottingham Avenue in Sudbury, and the license proposal is for a term of up to 30 years.

In contrast, the municipally owned Sudbury long-term care home Pioneer Manor submitted a proposal to build 38 new assisted living spaces and to upgrade 122 existing spaces in a new 444 bed home.

The Wikwemikong Long-Term Care Centre Home on Manitoulin Island also submitted a proposal to build 37 new spaces and upgrade 59 existing spaces. A new home, offering services to Indigenous residents, will be constructed for these 96 beds.

“I sat down and did the math – Extendicare will be the largest long-term care operation not only in Sudbury but in northeastern Ontario with 896 beds,” said Klein.

“These are all 30-year contracts that bind the public into an unjust scenario until 2050. Over 30 per cent of the population in Sudbury is over 65 years of age. How many of us are going to be around by then?”

The OHC’s report said that Extendicare has more than double the pandemic death rate of public (or municipal) homes.

“A CBC analysis of inspection reports during the second wave of the pandemic found that Extendicare was cited for the most violations of infection control and prevention directives,” it said.

“Homes owned by the company accounted for 13 per cent of the provincial total of 60 violations. When homes the company manages are included, that increases to 22 per cent of the violations.”

Families at Extendicare homes have complained of severe dehydration, failure to provide medical care, dangerous understaffing, and “horrific conditions,” the report added.

“Outbreaks are continuing in the for-profit chains because they operate on a business model to provide service cheaply and that’s the least quality that the marketplace will tolerate,” said Klein.

“These for-profit chains are invading Sudbury. Pioneer Manor and Wikwemikong Long-Term Care Centre are not-for-profit enterprises – they are established and administered by the people that live and work in the area.”

Klein said that over the past 20 months, not one resident of Pioneer Manor has died due to COVID-19 pandemic.

“When you support municipal and not-for-profit long-term care homes in your community, you are supporting quality of life for residents,” she said.

Jason MacLennan of North Bay attended the virtual press conference to share his experience with for-profit homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My grandmother was in long-term care who passed away due to a septic UTI and dehydration,” he said.

“She died a very serious and very painful death – one that could have been avoided with proper staffing levels and if they were not putting profit before the patients.”

MacLennan expressed his frustration with the provincial government after officials ignored his family’s complaints following his grandmother’s death.

He drew attention to the fact that more than 4,000 long-term care residents and at least 10 staff have died in Ontario as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OHC’s report refers to this as the “worst long-term care mass casualty in our province’s history.”

“We’re no different than any other family that has suffered in the exact same way,” said MacLennan.

“This is not new. We’ve talked this issue to death. It’s time to fix the problem permanently and supporting for-profit long-term care is clearly not the answer.”

The OHC ultimately said that the new report should serve as “a warning and a call to action.”

“It is not too late, but unless the Ford government is stopped, they are in the process of setting up Ontario for another entire generation of for-profit long-term care,” said the coalition.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

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