Privatization of long-term care making problems from underfunding worse

Ottawa (08 Feb. 2021) — The privatization of long-term care is making problems caused by underfunding worse. That's the conclusion of a new report from the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), Neglecting the Most Vulnerable: The Privatization of Long-term Care.

“When long-term care is privatized, the quality of care residents receive suffers,” said Larry Brown, President of NUPGE. “Whether it is the amount of direct care residents receive, or facilities being upgraded to meet current standards, research shows that public and not-for-profit long-term care facilities generally do better than ones owned by private for-profit corporations.”

Consequences of COVID-19 pandemic particularly serious in for-profit facilities

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people living and working in long-term care facilities provides a clear illustration of the damage the lower staffing levels and other problems that come with privatization can have. The death toll in all types of long-term care facilities was appalling, but it was particularly bad in private for-profit facilities.

“In the provinces providing the most detailed information on the impact of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, the numbers show that a disproportionate number of deaths occurred in for-profit facilities,” said Brown. 

Problems with privatization and under-funding not new

The COVID-19 pandemic meant that conditions in long-term care facilities received a lot of attention, but the problems aren’t new.

“Workers in long-term care facilities and their unions have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of privatization and underfunding,” said Brown. “Those warnings were ignored, and the people who live and work in long-term care facilities paid a high price as a result.”

Long-term care needs to be covered by the Canada Health Act

It is not just provincial and territorial governments that have a role to play in dealing with the problems caused by privatization and underfunding. The federal government needs to bring long-term care under the Canada Health Act and increase federal funding for health care to reflect that change.

“Including long-term care in the Canada Health Act, and having the federal government play a greater role in funding it, recognizes the reality that long-term care is an integral part of the health care system,” said Brown.

Ending privatization will mean more resources to improve care

The report argues that, while ending privatization isn’t a solution by itself, it will mean more resources are available to improve care.

“Ending privatization means that the millions of dollars that for-profit companies pay to their owners every year will be available to improve care in long-term care facilities,” said Brown. 

More information:

Neglecting the Most Vulnerable: The Privatization of 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