Man wearing mask staring out windowA new report by the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research (CICTAR) reveals that Europe’s largest long-term care home operator, Orpea, has been building a property empire while facing allegations of elder abuse and misappropriation of public money. Orpea is 15 per cent owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), which also holds two seats on Orpea’s board of directors. CUPE is reiterating its call for Canadian pension funds to stop bankrolling suffering and abuse in the long-term care sector, and an end to for-profit care.

The new joint report by CICTAR and French unions CGT and CFDT reveal Orpea’s 40 Luxembourg subsidiaries used to expand its property portfolio while disregarding resident care. This follows an exposé by investigative journalist Victor Castanet reporting allegations of resident neglect and rationing of food and incontinence products at Orpea. The French government has opened investigations into Orpea’s mistreatment of residents and workers, as well as its financial practices.

CUPE believes this is just more evidence that it’s time to end profiteering in long-term care.

“We refuse to accept that the neglect of our parents and grandparents and loved ones is simply the cost of doing business, and we know this problem doesn’t get fixed until we take out the profit motive and make long-term care public,” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock.

Hancock noted this isn’t the only disreputable long-term care operator being bankrolled by Canadian pension funds. In 2020, it was revealed that Revera, Canada’s second-largest private long-term care provider, was wholly owned by the Public Service Pension plan, and was recording nearly twice as many COVID-19 fatalities as the sector average, while notching enormous profits and aggressively avoiding paying its taxes. “Clearly, we’re not talking about one bad apple.”

Through the pandemic, for-profit long-term care centres have consistently been shown to have higher rates of death, higher numbers of verified complaints, and lower standards of care. Lower staffing levels in for-profit homes have been shown to increase negative health outcomes for residents, including inadequate repositioning, less toileting assistance, and higher rates of pressure ulcers, fractures, respiratory infections, and falls requiring hospitalization.

“Long-term care residents have suffered untold harm and neglect during the pandemic because of cost-cutting by multinational corporations who only care about profit,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick. “It is unthinkable that Canadians are unknowingly financing this abuse by having our retirement income invested in these cruel schemes.”

Throughout the pandemic, CUPE has been calling on the federal government to fix long-term care by bringing it under the Canada Health Act.