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July 23, 2020

Ford's Nursing home gift: To whom?

Reuel S. Amdur

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The COVID-19 crisis has thrown a glaring light on the long-standing problems in long-term care. A major part of the outbreak has occurred in these homes, most especially in those that are privately run. The military were called upon to address the most disastrous situations and they detailed the horror stories in some of the homes.

Issues in long-term care are numerous, with an acute bed shortage as the most obvious.  Then, especially in private homes, there is often inadequate staffing to meet the needs of residents and prevent staff burnout, inadequate training, poor pay and concomitant rapid staff turnover, and scrimping on essential supplies such as adult diapers.  The focus on profits is a major factor in this mess but not the only one.

On July 16, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a major financial infusion into long-term care, $1.75 billion over the next five years.  However, this money is being given to the private sector, where much of the problem lies.  The private sector is being encouraged with a ready supply of public money.  This money will upgrade existing homes to help them meet adequate standards.  Public money will also smooth the way for private developers to create new ones.  This is a recipe for continued third-rate care for the elderly and cushy profits for owners. 

The alternative is public acquisition and amelioration of existing substandard homes and development and operation of new facilities.  The government as well needs to improve training and to provide adequate pay and benefits for staff, making work in long-term care a genuine career choice.  Such measures are anathema to Ford and to Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton.

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