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Improvements needed industrywide, not just in for-profit seniors homes: Health coalition

Posted: May 11, 2020

(May 10, 2020)

By: Allan Benner, Niagara Falls Review

  • Although an Ontario Health Coalition study shows municipal long-term care homes like Douglas H. Rapelje Lodge in Welland have fared better than for-profit facilities, a long-term care advocacy group says changes are needed throughout the industry. - Allan Benner, Torstar file photo
  • Carol Dueck - Network 4 Long Term Care Advocacy Committee

A Niagara-based long-term care advocacy group says industrywide improvements need to be implemented to protect all residents, after a scathing Ontario Health Coalition report focused on the COVID-19 death rate at for-profit facilities.

“The problem is OHC (Ontario Health Coalition) is pointing their finger across the board at all for-profit homes,” said Carol Dueck from the Network 4 Long Term Care Advocacy Committee.

“There are some excellent for-profit places that are doing very well, and there are some not-for-profit places that are not doing very well.”

After analyzing 93 long-term care homes throughout the province where deaths have occurred due to outbreaks of the virus, the coalition report released last week shows the vast majority of 1,057 reported deaths occurred in facilities operated by for-profit companies.

The study, conducted by Ottawa lawyer Rabbi Shalom Schachter, said 700 deaths occurred in for-profit homes, compared to 275 in non-profit and 82 in homes operated by municipal governments such as Niagara Region.

The OHC study also determined that death rates had also increased faster in for-profit homes between April 28 and May 5 by 28.52 per cent, while in the same time period it dropped in publicly funded facilities by 18.46 per cent.

In Niagara, all four homes currently experiencing ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks are privately run, while outbreaks reported at two regional facilities were quickly resolved.

In a media release, Schachter said the model of delivering long-term care needed to be overhauled before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has highlighted the problems.

“The overhaul should respond to the ways that ownership impacts quality and outcomes of care,” he said.

Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra called for “a concrete commitment from government to stop the for-profit privatization of long-term and chronic care in our province.”

“As we go forward, the disproportionate power of the for-profit industry, and of providers in general, over advocates for residents and workers must end,” Mehra said.

Dueck, a Vineland resident and chair of the Network 4 Long Term Care Advocacy Committee, has previously teamed up with the health coalition, calling for appropriate funding for all long-term care home workers such as personal support workers to address shortages in the industry and hours of care provided to residents.

However, said she the OHC’s focus on for-profit homes doesn’t go far enough to address underlying problems in the industry.

“Everybody has to have a standard of care. Everybody has to be paid the right way. There has to be oversight. There has to be some criteria that they get their hands slapped or money taken away or their privileges taken away if they don’t keep up to the standards,” she said.

“The way people have applied infection control across the province is all over the map, and I would like to see a survey looking at who is your infection control operator in your home. Is it a social worker, or is it a nurse with an infection control certificate?”

Although it’s not regulated, Dueck said all homes should have certified infection control staff “in order to get ahead of it.”

She also pointed out that the majority of Ontario’s long-term care homes are run by for-profit companies, which she suspects could skew the data provided in the OHC study.

Statistics from the long-term care association showed 58 per cent of the 626 licensed facilities in the province are run by for-profit companies, compared to 24 per cent run by charities, and 16 per cent run by municipalities.

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