Coalition launching campaign to stop health care privatization
Posted: April 7, 2022
(April 5, 2022)
By: Allan Benner, The Peterborough Examiner
Sandra Ashcroft says conditions were “utter mayhem” while she was working to help a for-profit long-term-care home in Niagara recover from a tragic COVID-19 outbreak.
But instead of home operators being held accountable for failing to protect their residents, the registered nurse said some of the “worst offenders” are being awarded 30-year licences and thousands of additional beds.
Ashcroft said she was assigned to help bring an outbreak under control at the home in December 2020, but by the time she arrived “it was too late to prevent the devastation that would soon follow.”
“The situation on Day 1 is one I will never forget. Looking around, you would actually struggle to believe you were in Canada and not in a Third World country. It was really like a war zone. It was utter mayhem,” Ashcroft said while participating in an “emergency summit” hosted by the Ontario Health Coalition in Niagara on Monday night.
She said 90 per cent of the workers were off after being infected or exposed to COVID-19, and the workers who remained “were burned out and exhausted.”
“When I say there was no staff, please understand there was literally no staff,” Ashcroft said.
“Every day we would lose more staff who were either COVID-positive or a high-risk contact. And every day we would lose another resident or two.”
Ashcroft recalled speaking to a nurse who was crying after learning she had contracted the virus.
“She was sobbing, but it wasn’t because she had COVID. She told me it was because there was no one left to care for the residents.”
She said “staffing levels pre-COVID were not much better.”
Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said 4,500 people have died of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term-care homes, in addition to “literally thousands more who died of neglect.”
The provincial government recently announced 1,032 new and upgraded long-term-care beds will be built primarily in Niagara, at facilities being operated by for-profit companies — including some that were hard hit by outbreaks during the pandemic.
On Monday Mehra announced plans for a provincewide campaign ahead of the June 2 election that will, distribute signs and bumper stickers that urge the province to “stop privatizing public health care.”
People interested in displaying a sign or getting involved can contact the health coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She said for-profit homes in Ontario had five times more deaths due to COVID-19 than municipally operated homes experienced.
“That happened because of choices made by facilities about how they spend their money,” she said.
“One would think there would be some accountability, some justice for all of the suffering and death. But not one home has been fined. Not one operator. Not even the very worst has faced any kind of penalty. No one has lost their licence.”
Ontario Nurses’ Association regional vice-president D.J. Sanderson said, “Ontario’s health-care system is on the brink of collapse.
“We’re more than two years into this global pandemic with the continuing risk of new variants and waves, with a massive surgical backlog that needs to be addressed with no clear plan from this government on how they plan to do that,” he added.
He said Ontario needs to shore up its public health-care system, “not tear it down.”