For-profit care looking less and less palatable


On the heels of Saturday’s long-term care forum in Sechelt, a Halfmoon Bay woman sent a letter to the B.C. government and Vancouver Coastal Health that truly brings home the debate over public versus for-profit residential care, and why it’s such a critical issue for so many.

Marie Knight wrote that her mother died in the spring of last year in a publicly funded bed at a for-profit facility in the Fraser Health region, which stretches from Burnaby to Hope. For five years, Knight says, her mother was “subjected to unimagined neglect, lack of stimulation, appalling food offerings and staff who did give a damn were run off their feet trying to care for those people who desperately needed their care.”

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Examples of the “appalling neglect” included waits of up to a week for medical concerns to be addressed; minimum two-day waits for meds that were required immediately; delays of more than a week for needed medical tests; and waits of up to two hours for basic assistance with eating, toileting, or mobilization.

“My mother almost died twice because obvious and serious health issues materialized but were ignored by staff, even after we had brought it to their attention,” Knight wrote. “No amount of letters, calls and frustration directed to Fraser Health and the private company could/would change the conditions my mother and over a hundred others had to endure daily.”

The bottom line, Knight says, is that “these companies are profit driven first, care second.”

At Saturday’s forum, UBC researcher Dr. Margaret McGregor confirmed that differences based on ownership are well documented and – a word she used repeatedly – “consistent.”

“The evidence consistently finds that for-profit facilities, on average, provide fewer hours of care when compared to public, and a lesser extent non-profit facilities,” McGregor told the forum. The most consistent differences with the for-profits, she added, were lower staffing levels, more frequent hospital transfers for patients, more complaints and more “citations issued by inspections.”

The plan to close Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge in 2018 and turn over long-term care to a private company has generated a strong backlash on the Sunshine Coast, a fact borne out by the dozens of people who had to be turned away from the forum because the shíshálh Nation hall was filled to capacity.

The provincial government can continue to pass the buck to its Vancouver Coastal Health bureaucracy, but the public isn’t buying it. This is a political decision and the more we learn about its ramifications, the more dreadful it sounds.

We commend the group Protect Public Health Care Sunshine Coast for organizing the forum and urge the community to keep piling the pressure on the party ultimately responsible for this bad idea – B.C.’s Liberal government.

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