We need a public inquiry into the ongoing long-term care catastrophe
Posted: May 23, 2020
(May 22, 2020)
More must be done to fix long-term care, writes Monique Taylor
Our long-term care system is failing Ontario’s seniors and the workers that support them.
Since this pandemic began, more than 4,400 residents and staff at Ontario long-term care homes have contracted COVID-19. Of Ontario’s approximately 2,000 deaths, 1,400 have been connected with long-term care. It is safe to say that Ontario’s long-term care homes are now the front lines in the fight against this virus.
This week, the Ontario NDP put forward a motion in the legislature to hold a public inquiry into the catastrophe that has unfolded in the long-term care system. Our reasoning is that we need to determine the systemic reasons why seniors’ homes were left so vulnerable — and we need to do it publicly, without political interference.
Predictably, the Ford government voted down our motion and is instead opting to hold its own review of the system. This way Ford can retain control of the process and set the parameters of the review.
Since this pandemic began, at least four Ford insiders have registered to lobby on behalf of the largest for-profit long-term care corporations: Extendicare, Revera and Chartwell. It is hard to shake the feeling that this is connected with Ford’s reluctance to allow a public inquiry.
Not to mention that the Conservatives privatized long-term care under Mike Harris. According to the Ontario Health Coalition, private for-profit homes have had a substantially higher rate of deaths than nonprofit and publicly run homes. Currently, Harris now wields power as a board member of Chartwell, one of Ontario’s largest for-profit long-term care corporations.
We know that long-term care was in bad shape long before COVID-19. Years of chronic underfunding, understaffing and privatization led to countless reports of seniors being abused or neglected. No senior should be admitted to hospital for malnourishment or dehydration, yet this is all too common in Ontario.
In order to maximize profits, private long-term care operators run facilities with part-time staff, often at minimum wage. These workers have to cobble together several part-time gigs at multiple facilities to make ends meet. Chronic understaffing means care staff are unable to give residents the hands-on care they need.
To fix the system we need to give a voice to seniors, workers, experts, and families who’ve lost loved ones. We need to examine the role of for-profit corporations in long-term care. We need to ask why we’ve allowed seniors to be used to generate profits for multinational corporations.
We cannot go back to business-as-usual after this. We need to take private profit out of the equation and provide the funding, staffing and standard of care our seniors deserve.
We need nothing short of an overhaul of the long-term care system, and that starts with a comprehensive public inquiry into how the system has so horrifically failed Ontario’s seniors and their families.
Monique Taylor is the Ontario NDP MPP for Hamilton Mountain.