On long-term care: Fix won’t be easy, but it has to be done

In the wake of the devastating Canadian Forces report into 5 Long-term care homes, some people have called for removing the private sector from the industry altogether. Easy to say but hard to do. Right now 57 percent of long term care beds in Ontario are privately owned. Unless somebody thinks, as NDP leader Andrea Horwath apparently does, that the government can simply confiscate these properties  (It can’t) the cost of taking them public would be prohibitive. Its clear something has to be done, when we read reports that in the privately-owned homes PPE, diapers and other needed supplies are being rationed, presumably to sustain profit margins (and shareholder value), but the question is, what? Clearly the first step is a ramp-up of inspections. This government cut back on inspections and needs to reverse that decision immediately. It was a bit disturbing, by the way, to hear OPSEU President Smokey Thomas explain that his members who are inspectors, didn’t REFUSE to go into nursing homes during COVID, rather they refrained because the operators of the homes asked them not to come in. Can you say that again? We thought the whole purpose of inspections was to drop in unannounced to obtain a true sense of what’s going on. One suspects that if all the operators of nursing homes knew they could simply ask inspectors not to come in—inspections would end immediately. Clearly the solution to the LTC crisis will involve more money in some form, but that will be easier to achieve with the homes operated by charities and municipalities. If the government gives more money to the privately-operated homes what’s to say the extra cash doesn’t go to shareholders? There has to be a solution, perhaps in rigorous enforcement of standards of care. But the point is, it is not going to be easy to untangle the mess, and we need to beware of those who offer simplistic solutions.

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