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Letter to the editor: Healthcare funding with strings attached

Posted: September 3, 2021

(August 23, 2021)

By: Ben Lefebvre, BayToday

We must demand that the next federal government commit to implementing national standards for long-term care across Canada.

This would require providing adequate funding levels to the provinces in order to leverage the cooperation required to protect our most vulnerable population, our seniors.

The provinces, in turn, must provide the level of care to prevent a repeat of what occurred over the past 18 months when more than 14,000 residents and staff died from COVID 19 in long-term care during the first 2 waves of the pandemic.

In addition, more than 80,000 residents and staff were infected thanks to inadequate personal protection equipment (PPE) and infection control measures.

These deaths account for 69% of all pandemic deaths in Canada compared to the international average of 41%. This is absolutely shameful. Surely, we can do better!

Justin Trudeau promised to address the problems in long-term care in his Speech From the Throne last autumn and reiterated his commitment to do so again last December.

He even went so far as to threaten criminal charges against the owners of privately operated homes where dehydration and starvation of its residents were actually proven to have occurred. Unfortunately, nothing has been done since as the media focussed its attention elsewhere.

The Prime Minister then appointed representatives of the long-term care industry to set new standards that won’t be announced until late 2022. Why so slow given the overwhelming evidence? Isn’t that like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse?

These new standards will not address the very real problems encountered in privately-owned long-term care homes where the death rates were on average, 4 to 5 times higher than in publicly operated homes. One has to ask; why not? Or is this yet another case of profit over people?

Healthcare transfers must be increased across the country to address the gaps in services including in long-term care. Strings must be attached to that funding to ensure all Canadians have equal access no matter where they live, despite the ongoing objections of some provinces.

The federal government has the capacity to increase health care funding, it is simply a matter of priority. It also has the right to withhold that funding if provinces fail to provide adequate levels of service, as provided for by the Canada Health Act. It is the law of the land, after all!

We need national leadership on this issue. Canadians have a right to demand action from the political party leaders and this election campaign is our chance to do so. Our elders deserve better. We all deserve better!

Ben Lefebvre

Iroquois Falls, ON

August 23rd, 2021

705-232-8544

Ben Lefebvre is an Ontario Health Coalition local representative in Iroquois Falls.

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