For more than 75,000 Ontarians, long-term care (LTC) homes provide the care and dignity they need to survive. Seniors and persons with disabilities living in LTC facilities need and deserve a robust regulatory and enforcement regime, and public accountability to protect them. But increased privatization is eroding accountability and service quality, posing a serious risk to some of Ontario’s most vulnerable people.
Weak accountability and transparency
In Ontario, for-profit facilities receive funding from the government. But private facilities demonstrate less transparency and accountability, opening the door to instability and displacements that are harmful for residents, workers and the health care system. A complex web of investors and companies, combined with subcontracted management and service delivery, means monitoring for-profit providers is difficult.
Staff face precarious employment and lower wages
In order to increase profit margins, private facilities often slash wages and benefits of care staff and reduce investment in professional development. This leads to an increase in turnover. An American study of 902 nursing homes in California in 2005 found for-profit and chain-affiliated facilities had higher turnover rates compared with non-profit facilities — in some cases, turnover ranged as high as 100 per cent. The precarious employment and high turnover of senior care workers in private facilities translates to a lack of continuity of care for patients and their families.
Decreased quality of care for vulnerable seniors
Cost-cutting measures at some private LTC facilities also lead to understaffing, meaning seniors are not receiving the level of attention they need for daily tasks like bathing, recreation, and one-on-one care. In Brantford, Ont., one private nursing home was so short-staffed that weekly baths for residents were often skipped.
Further cost-cutting measures, such as rationing of essential supplies, cause an even bigger decline in the quality of care. In Ontario, a private nursing home chain enforced stringent rationing on diapers, forcing staff to wrap residents in towels and plastic garbage bags to keep beds dry.
Demand for long-term care increasing
The aging of Canada’s population is accelerating as baby boomers reach retirement. By 2036, nearly one in four Canadians will be a senior. As the population ages, demand for long-term senior care will only increase. Acting now to protect sustainable and accountable high-quality services will ensure Ontarians receive care that helps preserve their health and their dignity.