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Long-term care increasingly for-profit service in Ontario, advocates say

Posted: December 4, 2021

(December 3, 2021)

By: Francis Racine, Ottawa Citizen

A stock photo of a long-term care facility residence.

A stock photo of a long-term care facility residence. PHOTO BY HEIKO119 /Getty Images/iStockphoto

CORNWALL — A report by the Ontario Health Coalition released Monday revealed the majority of provincial licences to operate long-term care beds may well be allocated to private for-profit facilities.

What’s more, the Ontario Health Coalition, through its 72-page report titled Public Money, Private Profit: The Ford Government & the Privatization of the Next Generation of Ontario’s Long-Term Care, said more than 12,000 of these beds are slated to be given to private organizations with poor results during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the report, a total of about 46,000 beds are to be built and licensed by approximately 2024-25, with an additional 15,000 new beds added by 2028-30. Currently, Ontario’s stock of long-term care beds sits at about 77,000.

The Health Coalitions of Cornwall, Kingston and Ottawa hosted a virtual media conference on Thursday to discuss the report and to share stories of challenges faced in the three cities.

Louise Lanctot, president of the Cornwall & Area Labour Council and co-chair of the Cornwall Health Coalition, spoke of uphill battles non-profit or municipally-run LTC facilities face when competing against for-profit counterparts.

“In Cornwall, we have the Glen Stor Dun Lodge,” she said. “It’s the largest facility in our area and it was not given any beds because they didn’t apply for any in this new round. The reason there is that the municipality doesn’t have the money to put in the capital cost to do these beds.”

A breakdown of the beds and licences proposed in eastern Ontario, taken from the report, is available here.

Unlike private LTC facilities, non-profits don’t always have access to large sums of capital funds.

“In Long Sault, one of the homes there, run by Omni Care Healthcare, received 17 new beds and upgrades for 111 beds,” Lanctot said. “This is a home that had a four-month COVID outbreak during the pandemic.”

She also alleged staff members at the home were refused N95 masks after being told no residents had tested positive for the virus yet.

“As a result, many of those PSWs did catch COVID and one of them, I suspect, is permanently injured,” Lanctot said. “I spoke to her and she’s on oxygen and needs a walker to get around.”

Matthew Gventer, chair of the Kingston Health Coalition, claimed the culture of LTCs in the province had been distorted by the for-profit sector.

“They have had many years to correct problems that they have and now they are trying to correct it by getting us to pay for the new builds,” he said. “In general, that reflects the problems that we have, with giving grants and allocating beds to the for-profits. They’re motivation is not care, it’s profit.”

When asked if she believed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in the uncovering of a multitude of issues in the private LTC sector, Ottawa Health Coalition’s co-chair Mary Catherine McCarthy answered yes.

“I think that the pandemic exposed the lack of preparedness,” she said. “The government wasn’t prepared materially to handle the pandemic. I think that they were relying too much on the for-profit sector. There has been such a blatant disaster in nursing homes, with people dying not only of COVID, but also from starvation and neglect because they haven’t gotten any care or not enough people to provide it.”

“One of their great frustrations (family members of residents) is that they have been speaking about this for years and no one was listening,” added Ed Cashman, the co-chair of the Ottawa Health Coalition. “The additional frustration was that it was only when the military went in and wrote their report that the prime minister woke up. But the truth is that they knew about this.”

A handful of individuals, whose family members are currently residing or had resided in long-term care homes, also shared harrowing stories.

Betty Yakimenko’s mother lives in an Orléans long-term care home.

“As soon as she went in, we could see the issues right away, just in terms of the care that she received, which we didn’t feel were strong enough, knowing the type of people she was,” she said. “There had been a couple of incidents in terms of a fall and something which I will call a medication mishap. She declined quite rapidly after that.

“We would go in and she was sitting in a dirty diaper, let’s put it that way. They would take her to a meal like that. That’s ludicrous.”

A common misconception is that long-term care homes are only inhabited by elderly residents. Carlin Pethke, who is in his late 30s, resides at Maxville Manor. He has an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis.

Pethke’s father, Rainer Pethke, took part in the media conference, sharing what he thought would be ways in which lack of care could be tackled. According to him, inspections undertaken in LTCs should be independent and shouldn’t be announced in advance.

“If there was such things as customer satisfaction surveys and the homes that had good ones would receive more funding, then I think that we would see improvements,” he added.

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