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What started as a meeting to brief government officials about the problems with a P3 nursing home ended with the discovery of possible plans to privatize nursing homes in Newfoundland and Labrador. CUPE had organized the expert briefing to convince government officials, including the premier and health minister, not to proceed with plans for a P3 nursing home in Corner Brook.

The Newfoundland governments plans will hurt seniors care. Officials told the CUPE delegation they want to cut the number of nurses and licensed practical nurses that work in long-term care, replacing them with lower-wage personal care aides. Government officials have been on a fact-finding mission to Ontario, a hotbed of long-term care privatization. Ignoring evidence about quality of care, the Newfoundland government has embraced the Ontario model of private construction, ownership, operation and maintenance of these facilities.

The Ontario experience has been a disaster in terms of care, political cronyism and costs. A recent exposé of the provinces nursing homes in the Ottawa Citizen reveals a system in crisis. Ontario had the lowest ranking for quality of long-term care in a 2001 comparison with other provinces, states and European countries. Annual nursing home inspections have plummeted since an inspection team was disbanded. And the provincial auditor found 68 nursing homes so run-down they wouldnt make the grade according to standards set in the 1980s. The recent bankruptcy of a major Ontario nursing home chain adds to the case against private long-term care, as does the continuing trend of Tory party donors being awarded new long-term care contracts.

The process of privatizing the Corner Brook facility is going ahead, with requests for interested corporate bidders out and a September deadline for the government to decide whether to go ahead with a full request for proposals.