New analysis shows COVID-19 death rates significantly higher in for-profit long-term care homes

The evidence has never been clearer that for-profit homes are a risk to the lives of the residents.

Toronto (7 May 2020) — The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) has published new research that analyzed the death rates in 93 Ontario long-term care homes impacted by COVID-19. The findings concluded that for-profit long-term care homes had significantly higher death rates than non-profit and publicly owned homes.

Deaths in for-profit homes 8 times higher than deaths in publicly owned homes

Out of the 1,057 deaths in long-term care homes, 700 occurred in for-profit homes. That is more than double the deaths in non-profit homes (275), and more than 8 times the deaths in publicly owned homes (82). OHC reported that “for-profit homes exhibit higher rates of death but also that rate has increased in the for-profits since April 28 faster than in non-profits.”

The numbers look even starker when compared to the number of beds in each home. From April 28 to May 5, the proportion of deaths over total number of beds in these homes increased or declined as follows:

  • In for-profit homes, the death rate has increased by 28.5 per cent.
  • In non-profit homes, the death rate has increased by 14.2 per cent.
  • In public (municipal) homes, the death rate decreased by 18.5 per cent.

The bottom line

There can be no denying that outbreaks are still occurring in the entirety of the long-term care sector. But the death rate is significantly higher in for-profit homes and is increasing more quickly.

It’s one of the reasons the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has called on the federal government to bring residential care facilities under the Canada Health Act, thus ensuring that the privatization of residential care facilities does not come at the expense of residents and staff. Despite years of evidence that privately run homes underperform compared to publicly owned homes, governments have allowed for-profit, private ownership to take root across communities.

The outbreak at the Lynn Valley Care Centre gave the public a glimpse at how for-profit homes operate. To maximize profits these businesses underpay staff (forcing them to work at multiple facilities to earn a living wage), keep training to a minimum, minimize handing out personal protective equipment, and do the bare minimum to adhere to provincial guidelines.

All of the above and more is harming long-term care workers and the residents who depend on them. The evidence has never been clearer that for-profit homes are a risk to the lives of the residents.

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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