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BC FORUM News - from the Canadian Centre of Policy Alternatives

Posted April 25, 2020

It’s time to end profit-making in seniors’ care

 

By Shannon Daub, CCPA Executive Director

The coronavirus pandemic has shone a light on serious problems in seniors care across Canada and after the crisis BC’s provincial government should begin to transition away from its reliance on contracting with for-profit companies. That’s the key recommendation from a report we published earlier this week by CCPA-BC research associates Andrew Longhurst and Kendra Strauss.

We have been raising concerns about the role of for-profit companies in seniors care and the impact on the quality of care since the early 2000s, when the government began changing how these services are delivered in BC. It has been heartbreaking to see those very concerns “being graphically highlighted” during the pandemic, as the Premier said at a news conference this week when responding to reporters’ questions about the CCPA-BC report.·

In their report, Andrew and Kendra analyze the policies that brought us to this point and make clear recommendations for how government can change course, building on some very positive initial actions that have already been taken.

Early in the pandemic, the province issued a “single-site order” to contain the spread of the virus — requiring that all staff in long-term care and assisted living facilities work at one facility only, and guaranteeing them full-time work and unionized industry standard wage rates. Andrew Longhurst notes that, “In mere weeks, the BC government is trying to fix workforce instabilities brought about over years of labour policy deregulation and business practices intended to drive profits. These policy decisions were championed by care companies and corporate chains. And once the current crisis is over, we simply cannot return to the status quo.”

Over the medium and long-term BC should transition to 100% non-profit and public delivery of seniors care post-crisis.

In the immediate term, there are a number of steps that the provincial government should take, including requiring much greater transparency, banning subcontracting, protecting seniors in assisted living from evictions, and rejecting potential calls to bail out over-leveraged seniors care corporations.

A key concern Andrew and Kendra raise in their paper is potential double-dipping by for-profit long-term care companies that are already being funded as though they are paying wages at a unionized level, when in fact many of them are not. This is a problem highlighted by the BC Seniors Advocate earlier this year after she conducted a review of the contracted long-term care sector.·

The Premier’s responses to reporters’ questions this week on the topic of reforming seniors care were promising. When Liza Yuzda from the Globe and Mail asked the Premier about double dipping, he said that coming out of this crisis, long-term healthcare delivery must ensure that seniors care in the province is efficient, transparent and above all keeps our seniors “as safe possible.” Taken together with the Prime Minister’s many comments this week about the level of care we provide to seniors in this country, we are hopeful that major reforms to seniors care can be achieved if we fight for them.·

That said it is worth noting that alarmingly there are still opponents to change. Responding to CCPA-BC report, the BC Care Providers Association —a lobby group that represents for-profit seniors care operators — said our call to end for-profit delivery was “shameful”. We think there’s nothing shameful whatsoever about advocating for quality, public health care — indeed, we’re proud to do so. What’s truly shameful is the state of seniors care today across Canada.·

Despite what the BC Care Providers Association claims, as Andrew and Kendra put it, “We have the evidence and tools to rebuild seniors’ care. COVID-19 has revealed the urgency of doing so.”

Read the full blog post on Policy Note and check out media coverage of this publication by Global News and Times Colonist.

And for more about the different policy approaches that the provinces are taking in response to the COVID-19 crisis, Marc Lee and Arman Hamidian put together a very helpful round-up which you can read here. We’re happy to see that BC has been a leader on many fronts, including the already mentioned changes to seniors’ care, additional income supports, housing supports and others which you can read the details of here.

 

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