OPINION: Universal health-care privatization is unhealthy if profit ‘trumps everything else’
Posted: June 16, 2022
(June 14, 2022)
By: Patricia Baker, The Sault Star
In order to begin the long overdue restoration of our universal health care system in Ontario and Canada, hospital/long-term care, public health administrators, private for-profit chains and governments need to start looking at their workforce as an irreplaceable resource worth its weight in gold.
They need to value the wealth of knowledge they have on their payroll, the lives their employees have, their dreams, their dedication to their respective disciplines and their intrinsic value of thought, research, preparedness, process and skill.
In other words, it is imperative they exhibit genuine respect and support toward their workforce because of the value and reputation these specially trained health care providers bring to the various health care agencies across Ontario and Canada.
They are the skilled workers whom the public first encounter and interact with when they or their families require health care. Whether it be in the emergency/ICU during a crisis, the operating room for urgent surgery, obstetrics for the birth of a child, mental health department for a breakdown crisis, a care home, laboratory and public health services to name a few, health care providers are crucial to the overall health of universal health care in this country.
They are the grassroots of our health-care system. Empowerment, respect and empathy for what they do every day should be a pillar of every management team across the board. Support them in their fight for wages and benefits that match the job’s requirements and expectations.
Stop looking the other way because employees who are struggling with patient assignments that are unreasonable or at a times unmanageable, are burned out. They see no light at the end of the tunnel and become complacent, angry and mentally stressed.
This is not healthy and if the people delivering health care are becoming physically and mentally incapacitated, our entire health care system will suffer the same demise and be left unable to function in the delivery of care to patients.
If your employees are not happy and secure, they won’t be healthy in their working lives and universal health care will ultimately fail on all levels because it was created to be accessible to all Canadians and funded by the people it designed to serve.
It is the same for all the for -profit health care chains whose profit trump their workers rights to fair wages, benefits, pensions and a healthy working environment.
Their workers won’t be healthy through no fault of their own.
It seems our provincial government’s solution is to continue to privatize our cherished universal health-care system and in essence dismantle it in the name of profit for owners and shareholders of private agencies which will because of this, flourish.
It will become even more expensive to sustain, especially if health care workers succeed in their demands for wage increases that truly reflect the very difficult and essential work they perform during every shift they work.
In short, privatization will give the Ontario government the opportunity to off load expensive health-care expenses and wages to the private sector where profit margins and rewards are an inherent perk to their shareholders.
According to a May Toronto Star story, Doug Ford is spending billions to expand nursing home chains with some of the worst COVID-19 death rates.
It goes on to say that nursing home chains with some of the highest COVID-19 death rates will “reap big financial rewards under the Ford government’s $6.4 billion expansion of the province’s long term care system.”
As well more than half of the approximately 60,000 new and redeveloped beds in the plan are set to go to private, for-profit companies, where a third of the total beds will go to non-profit nursing homes which reported by far the lowest death rates during the pandemic.
“We’ve just been through the worst mass tragedy in long-term care in a generation, and those operators who were the worst, who were responsible for the most deaths, are now getting the most funding. I’m outraged,” Natalie Merha, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, is quoted as saying.
So, let’s get down to the horrid descriptions the Canadian military submitted after being deployed to nursing homes in Ontario and Quebec, to assist overburdened staff.
A May 26, 2020 CBC News report, ‘Military alleges horrific conditions, abuse in pandemic-hit Ontario nursing homes,’ is both precise and graphic.
The Canadian military found, recorded and reported shocking neglect, cruelty, delinquency at Ontario homes in Pickering, Scarborough, Etobicoke, North York and Brampton. Conditions in two of these homes, Orchard Villa in Pickering and Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, “appeared to be nothing short of horrid and inhumane as ill-trained, burned-out, and in some cases neglectful staff coped with the growing care needs of elderly residents.”
It was in Orchard Villa that troops observed a choking death of a resident who was lying down to be fed, food lodged in their throat and staff were unable to remove the food or revive the resident.
The military reported the presence of cockroaches and flies, the smell of rotten food, residents left in soiled briefs, inadequate diet, drugging and aggressive behaviour by some staff, which were burned out. But, that is no excuse.
What was revealed to the people of Ontario by the Canadian military was shocking. The secretive and deplorable inhumane conditions for vulnerable elders in their care was deplorable and a disgusting reflection on Canada, a wealthy nation.
Yet Ford’s plan to subsidize 50 per cent of the approximately 60,000 new and redeveloped beds for care homes in the government’s plan are to go to private, for-profit companies. Only 30 percent will go to non-profit and eight percent to municipal chains.
Ford, at the time, called the reports heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, but he still plans to reward these long-term care homes with millions of tax-payer money.To date no fines have been issued by the province to any long-term care home for pandemic failures.
Home health care in Ontario is a vital component of our universal health-care system, but it is breaking down in order to put profit into shareholders pockets first. There should be no profits for any organization providing health care in Canada because their purpose is to make money at the expense of the needs of their clients.
A Canada.Marketplace investigation posted March 18 found neglect of care, missed visits with little accountability. Nearly one million Canadians rely on some sort of home care support, but a Marketplace investigation has found a shroud of secrecy around companies’ use of public funds.
The investigation found “insiders and documents obtained by Marketplace revealing a system “with so few checks and balances that it’s leading to missed home visits, downloading of care and front-line workers so poorly paid they are leaving the sector in droves.”
Ontario issues thousands of contracts to home-care providers, some of which are not-for -profit, but the biggest ones are for-profit. Tamara Daly, a political economist and health services researcher at the York University, said “We don’t report or collect home-care data in the way we do for long term care. That’s a massive problem.
“These companies have no pressure to be transparent so we really can’t say the money is going for good care.”
Even at the worst of economic times they ensure their profits look after their shareholders monetary expectations. The COVID pandemic proved this and the patients who did not get the care they needed on a daily basis can attest to these unconscionable conditions they are forced to endure.
PSWs say they are double booked, paid barely more than minimum wage, not compensated for travel time. The report said the premier declined an interview request as did Health Minister Christine Elliott.
Privatization of our valued universal health-care system should not be happening, if profit trumps everything else. Those profits come at the expense of the sick and the elderly who are powerless to defend themselves.
What kind of society does this? What kind of society turns a blind eye to the worse than third world conditions the Canadian military recorded and reported? What kind of society promises home care to the vulnerable, the palliative, the suffering, the elderly who have paid their debt to this same society, then not deliver? What kind of society can justify profit over care, by leaving the most vulnerable in such horrific circumstances, then try to justify it?
Yet s#@t hits the fan only when those who are debilitated by gross negligence come forward with brave accusations. They not only suffer the acts of gross negligence, they have to re live them every time there is a new government investigation that quite often leads nowhere. Then the same government hands out contracts to the perpetrators. A vicious circle, is it not?
The private sector can play a respectful role in health care. But that role can not be based on profit gained from the public funding they receive from the taxpayers who have every expectation they will be cared for properly when in need.
But if the Ontario government continues to enable companies to post profits with public money, then turn a blind eye to secrecy and pathetic attempts at accountability, they become worse than the problem.
Then they smile on television and ensure us everything will be fine as they spend our taxpayer money for the sake of their “friends’” profit.
Patricia Baker is a Sault Star district correspondent, columnist and retired Sault Area Hospital nurse