The dangerously high price of privatization | – Hamilton Spectator

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A few days ago, the Ontario Conservative Government announced it would move elderly patience who were discharged from hospital beds into long term care homes up to 150 km away in the north, and 70 km away in the south or be charged $400 a night if they refuse. Why? Because we have a shortage of beds in our hospitals. Why do we have those? Why, well, partly because people are afraid of those long term care facilities they’re now being forced into. They saw the death toll there during COVID. They heard the horror stories. They know what they could be getting into.
The LTCs being refused are generally the private, for-profit care homes which had the worst outcomes during COVID. In fact, 58 per cent of long-term-care homes in Ontario are private institutions according to the Ontario Long Term Care Association. That means those sought after beds in safer, city run or not-for-profit homes are hard to come by.
According to a study conducted by University of Waterloo professor Martine August the most dangerous LTC facilities were those owned by private equity firms and large chains. These had the highest mortality rates during the COVID-19 epidemic. This makes devastating sense, because as August states in an article on the University of Waterloo website, “Financial firms are in seniors’ housing for what they can take from it, not what they can contribute. This approach — and the prioritization of profits is what guides financial firms.”
There is nothing wrong with companies making as much profit as possible. It’s brought us many innovations over the years. But should you be able to profit by having higher death rates in your LTC facilities or should you profit by making fancy running shoes?
We need to ask ourselves which businesses belong in the private sector and which belong in the public sector. We seem to forget we have these equally important sectors in our economy for good reasons — one of those is keeping vulnerable people safe. We’ve also been fed the lie for many years that the public sector is wasteful and intrusive and really quite bad at managing things. But then we had to send in the military to help handle the crisis in privately held LTCs and horrific conditions were reported back. That is a terrifying level of mismanagement.
Of course, with the United States next door we have an ever-present frightening alternative to our Canadian health system. With maternal death rates of 17 per cent — more than double those in Canada and higher than any other European nation, including Turkey — and with 66.5 per cent of personal bankruptcies due to medical bills according to a 2019 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, the US medical system is incontrovertible proof that privatization in this area comes with dangerously high costs. This is why Canadians wisely chose to have public health care years ago.
It is going to take time and a lot of resources to unravel the mess that too much privatization has already brought to our health care system. The lack of staff, of safe facilities. Of trust. However, I have a brilliant idea where we can find some of those resources. There’s this highway we don’t need, which is estimated to cost $8.2 billion to build with another $2.2 billion for the bypass required to connect it, according to a Toronto Star article. Or, I guess, we can add up those $400 nights.
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