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TORONTO — More than 1,400 seniors have died from COVID-19 than if Ontario had a fully public long-term care system, according to a new report released today. It’s an important lesson for voters in the June 2 election, as Doug Ford’s PCs have announced plans to tackle the post-pandemic surgical backlog by expanding private hospitals, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE ), the largest health agency in the provincial nursing union.
“Another 1,400 Ontario families have lost loved ones because of the confiscation of care benefits. This is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy we must learn from and must not happen again,” said Michael Hurley, President of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
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Ontario residents polled say health care is the most important issue in these provincial elections.
CUPE encourages all three major opposition parties to make this election a referendum on a moratorium on for-profit and private deliveries in our healthcare system.
The Ford PCs have already granted 30-year licenses for tens of thousands of long-term care beds to the same companies responsible for the additional 1,400 deaths identified in the CFT report.
“But that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” says Hurley, “if they continue to use the guise of the COVID-19 chaos to achieve a massive expansion in private care — from pediatric surgeries to cancer screening.”
The CTF report shows that private, for-profit, long-term care companies in the province made record profits of nearly half a billion dollars while the people in their care died and suffered from the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the developed world.
In 2020 alone, 2843 people in need of care died from COVID-19. A staggering 2,049 of these occurred in for-profit facilities, where the death rate was over 120 per 1,000 beds. This compares to 68 per 1000 in non-profit institutions and fewer than 38 in publicly run community homes.
Long-term care is chronically understaffed in Ontario, and the situation is particularly acute in for-profit facilities, where low wages and poor working conditions result in a chronic staffing crisis.
“The pandemic has only exposed what was already wrong,” said Debra Maxfield, chair of CUPE’s Healthcare Workers Committee. “The private provision of health care does not work. It failed in long-term care with tragic consequences. Why would anyone even consider voting for a government that plans to repeat its failures in home care and hospital procedures?”
CUPE calls on all parties to immediately stop any further privatization of health services and to replace existing for-profit long-term care, home care and clinics that provide hospital services with a fully public system.
In long-term care alone, companies have made $3.8 billion in profits over the last ten years.
“The same thing is happening in home care, and that’s taxpayer money that could have created public beds instead of shareholder dividends,” Hurley said.
CUPE is Canada’s largest health care union, representing 100,000 hospital, long-term care, nursing home and home care workers in Ontario.