As Quebec and Ontario have come into the COVID-19 spotlight, accounting for over 80% of reported cases in Canada, long-term care facilities have become the epicenter in the fight against the virus. Almost daily reports of new deaths and infections from different facilities paint a terrifying picture of the hardship being faced by residents, care-givers and their families. In Ontario on Tuesday, the Premier announced that 114 out of the provinces 626 long-term care facilities were facing outbreaks with more at risk. In Quebec, Easter weekend brought devastating news of 31 elderly found dead at a near-abandoned facility in Dorval outside of Montreal where mass negligence by private care company had led to a national tragedy. So far, provinces have largely blamed care-givers working at multiple facilities for the rapid spread and have announced emergency declarations to limit this. However, the reality is that decades of under-funding, lack of staffing and privatization are to blame for this crisis and require more than bandage solutions.
- As recently as last year, cuts to long-term care homes in Ontario by Doug Ford’s PC government led to, among multiple services reductions, old-age residents being limited to as few as one shower a week while personal support workers had their hours and sick leave drastically reduced.
- This corresponded with the amount of seniors in Ontario hitting a record high.
- Meanwhile, the historical privatization of long-term care homes in Canada has created for-profit incentives that have facilitated shortcuts, in the name of reducing “inefficiencies” which were already leading to needless deaths among our elderly before the emergence of COVID-19.
- Finally, despite Canada’s reputation as a relatively strong welfare state, successive federal governments have failed at developing a national strategy for improving care for seniors, even though the country’s shortcomings have long been known.