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Laying It Out: Great news, we’re trading seniors for profit

Posted: May 31, 2020

(May 30, 2020)

By: Medicine Hat News

Let me see if I have this right…

The good news is only old people are dying, and the vast majority of those old people are in long-term care facilities that I don’t even need to go to. Let’s live it up!

We used to acknowledge the fact that younger people who won’t die can very easily give COVID to older people who could die. But that kind of talk was so two months ago, and it’s really, really nice out, so what are the rest of us supposed to do?

The average age of people dying is 83, and as Premier Jason Kenney reminded us all this week, those people aren’t even supposed to be here anymore. So, to my readers who are on borrowed time, if you don’t mind, Albertans have things to do – like proving to Trudeau the Terrible we are ready to host NHL games that no one can go to.

But before I go wash my Habs jersey, let me say something to the LTC residents of Canada who are still with us.

The COVID-19 death toll in Ontario has now surpassed 2,000, with more than 1,500 of those at long-term care facilities. An analysis by the Ontario Health Coalition in early May, when LTC deaths had reached 1,000, showed 66 per cent occurring in privately operated facilities. Not-for-profits (26%) and public facilities (8%) accounted for the rest.

When the report was released, the death rate in private facilities (9%) was well above non-profits (5.25%) and more than double that of public (3.62%).

Now, here’s the real kicker. While further analysis showed all three categories increasing in number of outbreak facilities, the death rate was climbing fast at for-profit homes, on a slower climb at non-profits and going down significantly at public facilities. In short, more and more people are dying at for-profit care homes, while publicly ran facilities are minimizing the damage of this deadly virus (No, Mr. Premier, this is not “influenza.”)

By now most have seen or heard about the scathing military report on just five of these private homes, which cited several unsafe and unclean practices that have exacerbated deaths to a whopping 225 combined.

Toronto Sun columnist Brian Lilley wrote this week to make sure we all know which members of the Ontario Ministry of Health should be fired for this. While I’m certainly all for government ministers who are awful at their job not being government ministers anymore, he really glossed over the fact that publicly-run facilities have the same bureaucrats to deal with but are clearly better at controlling the spread than their for-profit counterparts. And it isn’t even close.

There have been pockets of talk since the military report was released, calling for the elimination of private seniors’ care, which is as no-brainer as it gets for those who actually care about the people living in these homes. For-profit care homes literally have to make money, and they will clearly do whatever it takes to do it, even if it means lower-quality care for residents.

But isn’t that the case in anything privately delivered? Profit always comes first, while quality of product for the customers is a secondary thought at best.

Press Progress dug into the qualifications of corporate directors at Canada’s four largest for-profit nursing home chains and found that only nine per cent were certified health professionals, while 40 per cent have backgrounds in real estate. Does anyone think they would even understand seniors’ care, let alone worry about it?

No. They understand making money, and that’s the point in all this.

Why do we accept that essential care of human beings is something anyone should make mass amounts of profit off? In Alberta, our United Conservative government is unabashedly trying to privatize as much as the public will allow – addiction services, medical procedures, schooling provision, etc. – and is constantly selling the idea that their goal is offering better service for all.

At what stage of discarding the elderly in a pandemic do we realize that politicians like this are never trying to maximize care for the people? Instead of acknowledging the mounting evidence that a growing number of for-profit care facilities have become downright dangerous, our leaders are trying to pass off LTC deaths as simply being good news for everyone else.

COVID-19 has been no fun for anyone, but it has provided us with an opportunity to change the way we operate our society. We have allowed our leadership to cater to the needs of the corporate rich for far too long, and it’s time the public on both sides of the political spectrum demands it end.

Right now, they’re telling us to ignore the tragedies at LTC facilities and to go back to the way we were living before this began – that it’s basically safe to go back in the proverbial water. And they’re telling us this risk is for our own good, because the economy depends on it.

If LTC residents are expendable in the name of making money, what are the chances that “our own good” has anything to do with the rest of us?

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