Advocates, families of long-term care residents sounding the alarm over plans to award beds to private operators
TORONTO -- Doris Wai feels that a blind eye was turned after her 98-year-old grandmother, Wai Lo Lin, was among more than 80 residents who died from Covid-19 during an outbreak at the Tendercare Living Centre in Scarborough in Dec. 2020.
Wai says her grandmother died just eight days after testing positive for the virus. Her family is still waiting for transparency and for the long-term care home’s private operator to be held accountable.
"We want to know what happened, what did they try to do to create a safe space for the residents who were not infected, but more so they didn't let us know what was happening,” Wai said.
The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) released a report on Monday detailing its research into the province's bed allocation plan.
The province plans to allocate 30,000 beds over the next decade and the OHC's report found a majority — more than 16,000 beds — are set aside for private operators.
"There is no reason that private equity firms and private investors should be operating Ontario's long-term care homes and taking care of the elderly and the vulnerable," executive director of OHC, Natalie Mehra, said during a virtual press conference.
The Coalition is calling on the Ford government to transition away from for-profit homes, arguing that many of the private operators have seen the highest infection and death rates in their homes, as well many having been found neglecting residents and not complying with protocols including infection prevention and control.
"We were promised significant change and instead, we're getting another 30 years, unless we stop it, of licenses paid for by public money to the same for-profit companies that have been responsible for so much of the trauma suffered by residents and their families," Mehra said.
More than 4,000 long-term care residents have died during the COVID-19 pandemic. For-profit homes had nearly twice as many residents infected with the virus and 78 per cent more deaths compared with non-profit homes, according to scientists advising the government on the pandemic.
Last month, Ford government tabled its plan to overhaul the system that included measures it believes would address the issues brought to the forefront during the pandemic.
"Long-term care home operators have a duty to provide a safe and healthy environment for residents. To fix long-term care, we have introduced legislation that will overhaul inspections and hold long-term care home licensees to account, to ensure residents are safe and well cared for," Ministry Spokesperson Mark Nesbitt said.
According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, more than 18,000 beds are being allocated to for-profit operators, more than 13,000 to non-profit and more than 3,200 beds to homes operated by municipalities.
The ministry says more than 1,200 beds still have to be decided on.
Advocates and families believe there is still time for the province to reverse course and reallocate beds to not-for-profit homes.
"Nobody profits from these for-profit-care homes except for shareholders — they're not good at taking care of their residents and families," Wai said.
"The government should do the right thing and not support these homes."
With files from The Canadian Press.