The Throne Speech promises criminal charges for those who neglect seniors, but receding federal funding is a major driver of the understaffing and neglect in long-term care facilities, reports CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

“We call for the federal government to be charged for neglecting our seniors,” says Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “We demand justice for all of those who have died in long-term care of an acute illness without ever being transferred to hospital. We demand justice for residents who’ve lost mobility and continence and suffer isolation and emotional neglect because staff simply don’t have time to provide seniors with the care they deserve.”

The federal funding formula for health transfers is not sufficient to support existing services, says CUPE Ontario. In the latest step in an ongoing decline in federal funding for long-term care, Ontario will be shortchanged by $750 million in 2020 by the federal government. This is the difference between the federal government’s inadequate funding and the real cost pressures for the provinces.

“The federal government needs to act now to save lives and address the growing provincial health care funding shortfalls,” Rennick adds. “Ontario will experience a loss over ten years of approximately $13.55 billion compared to estimated cost pressures of 5.2 per cent.  For Canada as a whole, the ten-year gap is estimated at approximately $31 billion.”

The cuts to federal transfers to the provinces for health care have left Ontario with lower long-term care staffing than the rest of Canada.

“The federal government is essentially condemning thousands of long-term care residents to neglect and decline,” says Michael Hurley, President of OCHU/CUPE. “This systemic neglect is a national shame that played out during COVID-19 with long-term care residents dying by the thousands in Ontario and other provinces while other countries which cared for seniors in a profoundly different way suffered no or minimal loss of life. Increasing staffing levels in long-term care by increasing federal transfers is fundamental to changing all of this.” 

CUPE Ontario and OCHU/CUPE call on the federal government to increase its share of funding for health services to cover the real cost increases experienced by the impacts of growth and aging. Additionally, CUPE Ontario and OCHU/CUPE call for a sufficient boost to long-term care funding so that a guaranteed minimum of four hours of nursing and personal care is provided for residents in long-term care.