Election 2021

My thoughts on privatized long-term care

Yesterday, a voter send me a link to a page about long-term care on Workers Vote, a website run by the Canadian Labour Congress.

The page is set up to email election candidates about long-term care in Canada. Except I’m not on the list.

So, I figured I’d give my response here.

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The website claims the following:

Canada has the worst record for COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes compared to other wealthy countries, according to a recent report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

Almost 70% of COVID-19 deaths in Canada were in long-term care.

That’s a direct result of increasing privatization and failed provincial policy. Decades of cuts have shown we cannot trust provinces to do right by seniors, workers, and their families.

Long-term care needs to be part of the public health care system aligned with the principles of the federally-regulated Canada Health Act.

It then goes on to ask:

As a candidate to be my Member of Parliament, I am asking you to tell me how and when you plan to make long-term care part of Canada’s public health care system.

They’re right.

The report they cited claims that the proportion of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care and retirement homes was at 69%. During the first wave last spring, the Canadian percentage was 79%!

The international average (of 22 countries) was 41%.

And I completely agree with the CLC’s assessment that this was a direct result of the privatization of long-term care.

Privatizing health care results in fewer workers, lower quality service, high end user costs, or all the above.

You see, the biggest difference between public health care and private health care is that the latter—on top of all the other expenses it shares with the former—must make a profit. Otherwise, why would a private company even agree to sell the healthcare service in the first place?

And the only way to make a profit while keeping end user costs the same is to reduce expenses, such as having fewer staff, using lower quality materials, or cutting corners in operational procedures.

Then we get a situation like we saw with long-term care, where the health of residents across the country was compromised as a way to “find efficiencies”.

Alternatively, private healthcare companies can keep the same number of staff, the same quality of materials, and the same operational procedure, but charge more to the end user (or to the government who contracted out the healthcare in the first place).

Either way, the public loses: we pay more or get worse service.

Plus, let’s not forget why healthcare is privatized in the first place. Politicians are infatuated with low taxes and balanced budgets. And because it’s literally impossible to balance a budget if you reduce revenue, they try to compensate by selling off public services, such as long-term care—or in the case of Alberta, laundry services and lab testing.

While there’s very little I can do concretely to change the system as an independent MP, I would definitely support measures brought forward by parties to make long-term care public again.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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