More evidence of problems with for-profit long-term care

Ottawa (02 Mar. 2021) — An analysis by the Toronto Star of death rates from COVID-19 in Ontario long-term care facilities has confirmed that the deaths per capita were far higher in for-profit facilities. This is the same conclusion reached in other comparisons of death rates in long-term care due to COVID-19, including NUPGE’s report on long-term care privatization that was released last month.   

According to the Toronto Star analysis, the death rate due to COVID-19 was 7.3 per 100 beds in for-profit facilities compared to 3.8 in non-profit facilities and 1.5 in publicly owned facilities.

Of the 20 long-term care facilities in Ontario with the highest death rates due to COVID-19, 17 were for-profit. And, while it wasn’t mentioned in the article, one of the 3 non-profit homes on the list had contracted out management to a for-profit company. 

Claims by for-profit long-term care corporations refuted

For-profit long-term care corporations have tried to avoid responsibility for the higher death rate in the facilities they own by claiming it is due to factors other than ownership. The 2 claims made are that for-profit facilities tend to be in communities with higher infection levels and that for-profit facilities tend to be older - though the second claim raises the question of why for-profit owners didn’t modernize their facilities to the same degree as public and non-profit owners did.

Neither excuse holds water, based on the Toronto Star analysis. When the age of the facility and infection levels in communities were factored in, the death rate in for-profit facilities was still much higher than in non-profit or public facilities.

Privatization industry trying to avoid facing reality

What the Toronto Star article on the higher death rate in for-profit long-term care facilities also shows is that the privatization industry will do everything it can to avoid acknowledging the problems with for-profit ownership. No one from the Ontario Long Term Care Association, whose members includes a large number of the companies that profit from long-term care, would be interviewed, and its response to questions was to repeat the claims that had already been refused by the Star’s analysis. 

Time to get profit out of long-term care

The problems with for-profit long-term care aren’t new. It was already well known that privatizing long-term care has made problems with under-funding worse and contributed to a lack of accountability. But the Toronto Star analysis and other research showing the price that seniors, their families and front-line workers pay as a result of the privatization reminds us why we need to end for-profit long-term care. 

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE