DURHAM and TORONTO – NDP Leader Andrea Horwath will restore the right of long-term care residents and their families to seek justice against negligent nursing home operators for the horrors they endured. Then she’ll overhaul long-term care so it doesn’t happen to others.
“Seniors — our parents and grandparents — deserve the best possible care. But for years they haven’t been getting it. This election is Ontario’s chance to finally fix seniors care. We can get the profits out. And we can put care back in by hiring thousands of nurses, PSWs and other frontline heroes. We can make sure seniors never again go without nutrition, protection, or a caring person at their side with time to listen, and time to care,” said Horwath.
“We can respond to the tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic by making sure no senior is ever neglected in long-term care again. This election is our shot to protect seniors in long-term care now, and for generations.”
During the pandemic, the Canadian Armed Forces reported that seniors were dying of dehydration, alone in filthy and infested rooms. Among the worst offenders was Orchard Villa, owned by for-profit corporation Southbridge Care Homes. At least 70 residents there died from COVID-19, and the CAF reported horrors inside the home included residents left in soiled diapers, on beds with no bedding. When they got food or water, staff didn’t even have time to help them sit up, causing choking.
In late October 2020, Southbridge hired three well-connected PC lobbyists: Alanna Clark, directly from PC Minister Caroline Mulroney’s office; Rob Leone, a former PC MPP and Stella Ambler, former Conservative MP. Within a month, the Ford government passed a law shielding for-profit long-term care corporations from lawsuits for negligence.
Then Ford started handing the worst offenders 30-year license extensions, and the right to open more beds in the worst homes. He’s making Southbridge eligible for almost $4 billion in government funding.
Long-term care in Ontario is broken. Horwath will finally start to fix it. The NDP will:
- Immediately restore the right of residents and their families to sue long-term care corporations for negligence, seeking justice for loved ones.
- Deny the license renewal applications of Orchard Villa and other Southbridge homes — and instead, license non-profit and public entities to take over.
- Review approvals that have already been granted.
- Work with local hospitals, municipal councils and non-profits to seamlessly transfer ownership to non-profit entities – similar to the transitions in management that happened during COVID-19 outbreaks.
- Create a new legal fund to help families access justice. The fund would be accessible to any resident or family who had their legal case against a long-term care home corporations derailed by Ford’s legislation.
“Our loved ones cannot withstand more years of Liberal and Conservative cuts to long-term care, and cuts to comprehensive inspections,” said Horwath. “It’s time to change the system, and invest in a better quality of life and quality of care for seniors and people with disabilities.”
Ontario has the highest share of for-profit nursing homes in Canada, and Ford is privatizing further by allocating new beds to for-profit homes.
Southbridge and the business of long-term care
Southbridge is a business venture launched with the explicit goal of scooping up older homes, saving money on operations and eventually getting a government contract to renovate or rebuild the properties.
- Over the past decade, more and more investment partnerships backed by private equity capital have entered the industry with the goal of cashing in on the province’s aging population and crumbling long-term-care infrastructure.
- By 2017, Southbridge had deals in place to buy more than 5,000 beds in Ontario, enough to make it the third-largest nursing home company in all of Canada.
- In Orchard Villa, when Southbridge took over, cost-cutting changes included fewer permanent nurses and personal-support workers, and more reliance on lower-paid temp workers.
- As the Toronto Star’s Richard Warnica noted in a feature on Orchard Villa, “In theory, the pandemic should have interfered with [profit-making] plans. In practice, the opposite has happened. Investment-backed long-term-care giants in Ontario have overseen some of the worst death rates in the province from COVID-19. They’ve also been able, with the help of a cavalcade of well-connected lobbyists, to secure almost every one of their business goals, from both before and during the pandemic.”
- Financial disclosures show Ontario PC MPP Deepak Anand (Mississauga-Malton) bought shares in one of the deadliest private long-term care companies during the pandemic, Sienna Senior Living.
Aging Ontarians Deserve the Best: Horwath’s seniors care platform
- The NDP plan includes record investment into better care and better living. The total cost of the plan is $750 million per year in each of eight years for one-time capital investments, and increasing investments of $3.8 billion over the next three years to improve wages, staffing and services.
- The NDP plan includes:
- Overhauling home care to help people live at home longer Ending the for-profit, understaffed patchwork of home care companies that make seniors wait and fail to address the inequities. This includes bringing the system into the public and non-profit sectors over eight years, as well as new provincial standards for home care services, and culturally-appropriate resources, training and job-matching.
- Making all long-term care and home care public and not-for-profit Ending greedy profit-making at the expense of quality of care. Horwath is committing to phase out for-profit operators within eight years, and increasing financial reporting, transparency and accountability during the transition period.
- Building small, modern, family-like homes The gloom of being warehoused in institution-like facilities is over. An NDP government will immediately start building small nursing homes that actually feel like home. Based on best practices from around the world, the NDP will build smaller living spaces shared by groups of six to 10 people. In a small town, it could look like a typical family home. In bigger cities, it could look more like a neighbourhood of bungalows.
- Staffing up with full-time, well-paid, well-trained caregivers Instead of the revolving door of staff run off their feet, the NDP will give personal support workers a permanent wage boost of $5 an hour over their pre-pandemic wages. The NDP will mandate enough staff to guarantee at least 4.1 hours of hands-on care per resident per day, establish a dedicated fund for training personal support workers, and more.
- Making family caregivers partners The NDP will treat loved ones like more than just visitors, including creating a provincial Caregiver Benefit Program and ensuring every home has an active family and resident council.
- Creating culturally responsive, inclusive and affirming care The NDP will make sure seniors feel at home, surrounded by their language and culture, and make sure 2SLGBTQIA+ seniors can always live with Pride. This includes partnering with communities, Indigenous nations and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities to fund community homes, and more.
- Clearing the wait list Clearing the 38,000-person wait list that can mean years waiting for a bed, and even longer for a culturally appropriate home. The NDP will create up to 50,000 spaces and eliminate the wait list within eight years.
- Guaranteeing new and stronger protections Comprehensive inspections, a Seniors’ Advocate, and more will ensure care never goes downhill again.