Right now, 79 per cent Canada's COVID-19 deaths are connected to long-term care facilities and make up the majority of deaths in B.C. Many seniors and elders have faced the end of their lives alone and their families have been left to pick up the pieces. We have known since the start of this pandemic that elderly people are most at risk, but we knew the senior's care sector was in crisis long before the virus came to B.C.
The crisis in long-term care started in the early 2000s when the (then) newly elected BC Liberal government passed healthcare laws that opened the door for privatization and contract-flipping, decimating labour rights and creating a race-to-the bottom in wages. Working conditions suffered, and so did care.
Study after study has confirmed: seniors in for-profit care receive inferior support and suffer worse health outcomes compared to those in publicly-funded or non-profit care facilities. That's because the profit motive in private systems gives operators a choice: invest in care through adequate staffing and compensation for workers, or maximize your profit by suppressing wages and staffing levels. The crisis in for-profit long-term care is proof of the choices those operators have made time, and time again.
20 years in the making, the tragedy we face today lays at the feet of for-profit companies-underpaid workers had no choice but to cobble together hours by working at multiple locations in order to make ends meet. As we now know, this patchwork system turned out to be the ideal conditions for the spread of the virus.
The good news is that our current government had started the long, complex job of repairing seniors' care in our province before COVID-19 came to B.C. In 2019 the BC NDP transitioned all home support workers – those working in the community – from private contracts back into direct government employment. The BCGEU had long called for this change and you can read more about it here. This was an important and timely achievement but now we need to do the same in residential care.
It's time to take the profit motive out of seniors' care entirely in B.C. by moving to a non-profit, publicly delivered system in our province.
Click here to join us in calling on the BC government to phase-out for profit residential seniors' care in B.C. now.
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