For those who are still fortunate enough to have aging parents, grandparents, or loved ones around, we owe it to them to help them tally up as much joy in their lifetime as possible. We can help by doing everything within our might to ensure they are well taken care of physically and emotionally. We must see that they are safe, happy, and comfortable. The importance of senior care cannot be understated.
Readers are likely aware that the federal government is proposing the adoption of care standards they have developed to improve the lives of residents living in long-term care (LTC) facilities. However, we are currently uncertain whether the federal standards will be recommendations that can be voluntarily adopted or rejected.
Some are already asking, “What difference does it make? Of course, LTC facilities and administrators care. — Right?”
Well, my answer is, “not so fast.”
I remind readers about the alarming statistics regarding mortality rates in Ontario’s LTC facilities during the pandemic. There was a shocking difference between mortality rates between for-profit and not-for-profit LTC facilities.
In December of 2021, the Ontario Health Coalition reported that 4,023 residents had died as a direct result of contracting Covid-19 – a very sad statistic indeed. Horrifically, however, on top of those deaths, others died from proven malnutrition, dehydration, and neglect. It was determined that the cause of this was gross understaffing. This led to overwork and burnout of care providers.
Further analysis of LTC facilities showed a brutal difference between for-profit and not-for-profit facilities.
Death rate per 100 beds
- For-profit 5.2
- Non-profit 2.8
- Publicly owned 1.35
The results of this investigation indicated a definitive reason for the above difference in mortality rates. The non-profit facilities put a priority on the health, safety, and comfort of the residents. On the other hand, the for-profit facilities prioritized using dividends to line the pockets of shareholders, and owners.
Given the above, one might wonder what would be the most responsible action for a government to take regarding who should be operating our LTC facilities. For-profits or not-for-profits? The Ford government’s reaction was to offer for-profit LTC facilities license renewals that would extend for 30 years. This included the licenses of LTC facilities with death rates ranging from 6.26 to 9.00 per 100 beds. Would a responsible government offer Ontario food processing plants a license that would be valid for 30 years? I think not. But I guess in Mr. Ford’s mind putting the lives of vulnerable seniors in jeopardy is just a strategic business decision.
When Premier Ford and LTC Minister Paul Calandra heard the news about the federal government’s plan to implement standardized minimum care standards for LTC facilities, their response was less than lukewarm. It was predictably cool.
The January 31, 2023, CTVNews.ca headline read, “No interest in ‘watering down’ LTC standards to meet national ones: Ontario minister.” In the article, Minister Calandra was quoted as saying, “I’m going to take a look at the federal standards… I’m uninterested in any guideline that would water down the very high standards that Ontario has put in place with the fixing Long Term Care Act.”
New Democrats see this situation differently. Upon hearing Minister Calandra’s comments, NDP MPP for Nickel Belt France Gélinas said, “This is insulting. What we have in Ontario doesn’t compare. We are decades behind in Ontario. There is no mandatory yearly assessment of our long-term-care homes. Who are we kidding here?” There is no question that Minister Calandra knows better than to say he is afraid the federal standards will water Ontario’s regulations down.
The Ontario NDP has a vision for a new home, community care, and long-term care system that delivers better living and care in smaller, more homelike facilities. We know that families need to have confidence and peace of mind that their loved ones are cared for. Details of the NDP plan are available in our “Aging Ontarians Deserve the Best” policy paper.
The Ontario NDP applauds the new federal standards but clearly believes the standard must also include 4.1 hours of daily hands-on care for each resident. MPP Gélinas said that the federal proposal covered everything from fall prevention, socialization and what happens in case of a disaster. We believe the federal proposal is, at the very least, a good start.
We can and must do better to protect Ontario seniors.
As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.
Michael Mantha MPP/député