BY CATHERINE SOPLET
Those hoping that a new decade has brought a long-sought turn in Long Term Care may have to keep waiting a little while longer. A Toronto Star headline in its Tuesday edition read: “Pension funds pulling cash out of for- profit LTC sector.” Of the $44 million in holdings invested by international pension funds, two have divested from the sector, including Canada Pension Fund.
Another $30 million in European holdings are threatened to divest from long term care chains like Extendicare, Sienna Senior Living and Chartwell Retirement Residences, pending a review to determine the contravention of ethical investment guidelines.
The news came as COVID-related fatalities in LTC homes hit new highs, with Tuesday’s death count in facilities totalling 3,389, an increase of 20 per cent in just four weeks, over deaths in 2020 reported four weeks ago. The Star closed the year by running its frontpage investigative report “The Terrible toll of inaction: More than 2,700 dead.” Two-thirds of the front page were filled row on row with miniscule humanoid icons representing each of the 2,721 residents and 8 staff lives lost since Jan. 15, 2020. On the following front page for New Year’s Day, the Star headlined the post-vacation resignation of Ontario Minister of Finance Rod Phillips.
Against public policy against non-essential travel and common sense, Phillips left Canada for a jet set trip to St. Bart’s, which he attempted to mask by sporting a woolly sweater to his Cabinet webinar in front of a legislature backdrop that belied waves crashing on a beach. The story ran over onto Page 10. An image of the now-masked Phillips was juxtaposed against the headline to report of the sudden death by a tragic fall of Ontario’s Patient Advocate, Cathy Fook:
Ontario’s patient ombudsman dies in an accident. Report of the incident was held until Dec. 31. Fook was appointed in June as the province was battling the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that savaged long term care homes. She brought more than 30 years to her new role, previously serving as Chief Executive for the Change Foundation with a mission to improving health care and founding Executive Director of the Health Council of Canada.
The Star reported that Fook, just six months into her job, pushed for more supports for long term care homes an emergency plans for staff shortages, flooding a number of disturbing complaints in a special report obtained by the Star in October. As Winston Churchill he famously said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Despite the distractions of COVID vaccine supply vs. storage vs. syringes into arms, and south of the border, the US insurrection and inauguration, the Star has kept the Long-Term Care on its front page of every issue since Jan. 1.
“Whenever we have made progress it’s because the press were there to record and help us hold operators and government to account.” said Natalie Mehra, the executive director of Ontario Health Coalition. On Jan. 21, Mehra convened a virtual press event attended by 100 advocated caregivers and health sector union brass, which engaged a press gallery of some 30 significant journalists.
Peel Region was well-represented in the traumatizing stories of families and professional caregivers. Announcements of $3 per hour of danger- pay raises from October have not been paid out. Staff shortages lead to impossible workloads with barely time for staff to meet basic nutrition and hygiene need. Family members watched helpless as their elders in care screamed in pain for help.
Never let a good crisis go to waste. February is prebudget planning month in the province. The Star headlined its LTC above-the-fold cover report “The bottom line – Crisis of Care”.
Below the fold – “Ontario sitting on $6.4B in unspent COVID aid” and a second story “Former bureaucrat admitted he ‘diverted’ $11 million in COVID funding to a swathe of personal bank accounts, in Ontario and abroad.” Enough is enough. It’s time to end privatized Long-Term Care.