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‘It’s policy versus people’: Guelph groups call on province to ban private long-term care homes

Posted: October 9, 2020

(October 8, 2020)

By: Jonathan Duncan, The Guelph Mercury Tribune

A group of around 12 people gathered in downtown Guelph on Thursday, demanding better services for long-term care residents, and deprivatization of health care.

It was part of a planned series of protest and rallies across the province, organized by the Ontario Health Coalition.

With the Norfolk Manner retirement a stone’s throw away, three speakers from different groups, Guelph local CUPE 57, the Ontario Health Coalition Guelph-Wellington (OHCGW), and Concerned Friends of Ontario Citizens in Long Term Care (CFOCLTC) spoke at the event, each raising their own concerns under the theme of deprivatization.

One key issue each presenter had issue with was the concept of privatized long-term care homes.

LInda Pellegrini is the president of CUPE 57, a union that represents around 600 hospital workers at Guelph General Hospital. She said that a major issue with the current long-term care model is that patients aren’t getting the recommended amount of service time.

“Three quarters of the deaths of long-term care residents during COVID-19 happened in privately owned and operated long-term care facilities. There was evidence before this that health outcomes for people receiving for-profit care was worse, primarily because resources meant for care were diverted to profits for shareholders,” said Pellegrini.

Each woman in the group referenced an investigation by the Star that found the three largest private LTC homes paid out $1.5 billion to shareholders over a decade.

“We call for an immediate stop to the immoral practice of taking resources that should be dedicated to health care for the frail, elderly and the vulnerable and trading them as profits for shareholders,” Pellegrini said.

The union leader also said that any LTC resident diagnosed with COVID-19 should be moved to a hospital, since hospital staff have better resources to control infections.

One key point the groups focused on was the idea that residents in LTC need at least four hours of direct patient care each day. This level of care is also recommended by the province in an LTC staffing study published on July 30.

Laurie Nicol, vice-president of Concerned Friends, said her group has been tracking compliance orders against long-term care homes for decades. In the last three years, orders concerning basic human needs have been at the top of the list.

“The most common item for compliance orders was residence rights, which includes the right to dignity, privacy, respect, treatment, appropriate resident activities and programming, bathing, grooming, and freedom from abuse,” she said.

“The staffing shortages in long-term care facilities were critical far before the pandemic. There’s an urgent need for an appropriate frontline staff to resident ratio within each facility that adequately meets the care needs of the residents.”

The rally came a day after and Ontario patient ombudsman said drastic changes, including increased staffing, are needed to ensure what happened during the first wave of the pandemic doesn’t happen again.

Magee McGuire, OHCWG co-chair, said her groups been fighting against “creeping privatization” in the healthcare industry for decades.

During her speech, McGuire said one new policy her group is concerned with is the plan to allow COVID-19 testing in pharmacies. Later in an interview, McGuire said she isn’t completely against pharmacies doing the testing, but wants to ensure they’re not using public funds.

“If the pharmacy wants to do private, they can manage it and take the money, but don’t ask the government to pay for the setup. Don’t ask the government to do your advertising,” she said.

“It’s policy versus people. That’s the war.”

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