"The crisis in long-term care urgently requires federal action. It is shameful that Canada is the worst country at protecting our vulnerable seniors, having the highest proportion of COVID-19 deaths in our long-term care facilities. NUPGE is pleased that the federal NDP is championing long-term care reform at this critical moment." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Ottawa (05 February 2021) — The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is supportive of today's long-term care (LTC) commitments made by the federal New Democratic Party (NDP).
The federal NDP's Care Guarantee takes a progressive stand on LTC reform. NUPGE has met with the federal NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, during the pandemic and is pleased to see a number of NUPGE's recommendations reflected in the Care Guarantee. NUPGE represents a large number of frontline health and community care workers, including many in LTC, and has been disappointed by the lack of federal and provincial action in this sector.
Federal action needed immediately
The crisis in LTC facilities has continued through the second wave of the pandemic. Canadians were outraged when the military needed to be deployed to save seniors during the first wave of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the crisis is continuing through the second wave, as outbreaks and deaths continue unabated. The federal government has called for negotiations with the premiers on national standards and has committed $1 billion for improvements in the sector. These were initiatives that held promise, but nothing has happened in the months since these announcements were made.
NUPGE fights for LTC’s inclusion as part of our public health care system
NUPGE has repeatedly called on the federal government to act, and our members are increasingly feeling the effects of the failures in LTC, both in terms of the terrible loss of life as well as the mental and physical toll it is taking on them. This is why we have called for LTC to be brought under the Canada Health Act (CHA). The CHA is the bedrock of our public health system in Canada, and it makes no sense that LTC is not covered under the CHA.
Take profit out of long-term care
For-profit LTC has failed Canadians. Every study on the outbreak has shown a significantly greater number of deaths and infections in these facilities. 80% of the facilities in Ontario requiring military intervention were for-profit homes. NUPGE supports the NDP's commitment to "take profit out of long-term care."
The NDP commitment to create a national task force to develop a plan to move all for-profit care to not-for-profit hands by 2030 is a positive proposal. NUPGE also fully supports bringing Revera — a large and particularly troubled for-profit corporation — immediately into the public system, as part of a larger restructuring of the sector towards making it fully public. Revera is owned by a federal agency and should be brought under public ownership.
Long-term care must be brought into the Canada Health Act
The federal NDP has cited NUPGE’s work in their proposal, including our work on bringing LTC into the CHA. NUPGE is calling on the NDP to commit to going even further using the CHA to protect vulnerable Canadians. LTC must respect the principles of the Canada Health Act, but that can only truly be done if LTC is brought into the CHA. Canadians agree, with this idea with polling showing 86% approve while only 2% are opposed.
Work with the provinces but the moment demands federal leadership
The pandemic has exposed how broken the system is. The federal NDP’s plan calls on the federal government to do more and invest more in LTC. These are positive and necessary proposals that NUPGE supports. Over decades of neglect, the federal government has allowed the sector to become a patchwork of care that has left seniors vulnerable.
The federal government needs to work with the provinces and territories to implement some of the NDP’s proposals in areas like reforming labour regulations, increasing training and resources in LTC, and boosting wages. Overall, however, the federal government must lead and invest. Provinces cannot be allowed to undermine progressive reforms, and this means the federal government must be decisive in action.
The system is broken and lives are at stake; the NDP proposal presents some bold steps toward fixing LTC in Canada.
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