Private Seniors’ Homes Continue Operation Despite Infections and Deaths
To date, more than 80,000 people, seniors living in long-term care and retirement homes and staff who care for them, have contracted COVID-19. More than 14,000 long-term care and retirement home residents and staff died during the pandemic’s first two waves. Many others will never fully recover their health.
During the first wave of the pandemic, long-term care residents’ deaths accounted for approximately 80 per cent of all reported pandemic-related fatalities. We are now into the fourth wave, with the more dangerous Delta variant gaining new ground every day. Instead of taking concrete actions to hold long-term care facilities to account to provide humane care and humane working conditions, the Prime Minister has seen fit to waste an estimated $610 million on an irresponsible election to win a Liberal majority.
In announcing the election, the Prime Minister said: “To elders in long-term care homes, people who’ve worked hard for a good retirement but are struggling, I hear you when you say you deserve better. We’re ready to make sure you get it.”
Although we are told that the Canada Health Act “sets out the primary objective of Canadian health care policy,” which is “to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental well-being of residents of Canada and to facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers,” it is devoid of any objective standards of any kind, including as concerns long-term care. Health care and long-term care fall under provincial jurisdiction, and are open to privatization and the profit motive and, according to the neo-liberal mantra, government cannot intervene in private business decisions. Unless of course, it comes to handing over public monies to pay the rich.
In its fall 2020 Throne Speech, the federal government pledged to address inadequate care and dire conditions in long-term care facilities. It said it would work with the provinces and territories to establish national standards of care, and to provide additional supports to people who want to stay in their homes longer and promised to “take any action it can” to support seniors.
It also said it would work to amend the Criminal Code to penalize those who neglect seniors in their care and put them in danger.
A $3 billion investment “to help ensure that provinces and territories provide a high standard of care in their long-term care facilities” was proposed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, in Budget 2021 on April 19. The money, however, is to be provided over five years to Health Canada, starting in 2022-23, “to support provinces and territories in ensuring standards for long-term care are applied and permanent changes are made.”
In Budget 2021, the Trudeau government also committed to work collaboratively with provinces and territories to “ensure seniors and those in care live in safe and dignified conditions.”
All of it is talk to cover up what precisely is done, for whom, when and where, and that any party which calls for the people’s trust and speaks like this should be opposed as a matter of principle. Only those whose deeds are verifiable and show they uphold the rights of all and serve the well-being of the people should be supported.
It is the workers who should be supported. Their working conditions are our living conditions – in every field including health care and seniors’ care. It is the workers who are defending the well-being of the population by insisting that working conditions and humane care prevail.
The cartel parties do not represent the working people so it is up to Canadians to speak out in their own name, in this election and at all times.