Mark Hancock

Mark Hancock | National President

For so many families, the past year has been an endurance race to a time when their most vulnerable loved ones in long-term care homes were protected against COVID-19. For the first time in a long time, they can see the finish line, as vaccines begin to offer a glimmer of hope.

But thousands of families have not been so lucky. Four out of five deaths due to COVID-19 in Canada were residents or workers in long-term care centres. This vital part of our health care system remains without national standards of care and as a result, leaves residents without the care they need, and it leaves workers overworked and underpaid. This is especially true in the for-profit long-term care sector, where neglect runs rampant and where research shows outbreaks were lengthier and much deadlier.

In January, we learned that Revera, Canada’s second-largest care home operator and site of some of the worst outbreaks and death tolls during the pandemic, is involved in aggressive international tax dodging. This toxic industry doesn’t just prey off vulnerable seniors. It entrusts the care of our loved ones to a network of international tax cheats.

As a country, we simply cannot go on like this.

It is long past time to get profit out of long-term care. The fact that we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic doesn’t change that. In fact, it makes it even more urgent.

For years, CUPE has been calling for an end to profit-making in long-term care and advocating for national standards of care and a minimum of four hours of dedicated care per resident per day.

It’s a shame that it took a pandemic for it to happen, but it seems like politicians in Ottawa are finally starting to listen. In its September throne speech, the Liberal government announced a vague pledge to establish national standards of care but, in true Liberal form, we haven’t seen or heard of any progress in the seven months that have since passed.

On the other hand, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s new Care Guarantee responds to the crisis in long-term care and calls from CUPE and our allies for an end to profiteering in health care.

COVID-19 did not break our long-term care system. Any CUPE member who works in the sector could tell you it was broken long before.

What’s important now is that, with a federal election around the corner at any moment, we seize the opportunity to fix this part of our health care system once and for all.