For the past three-and-a-half years, I have been involved in an advocacy group organized in response to Vancouver Coastal Health’s attempt to privatize long-term care on the Sunshine Coast. Although our coalition was founded to address this particular issue, from the outset we have seen the defence of publicly operated long-term care as only one stage in an ongoing fight to defend our public health care system. The COVID-19 crisis shows what is at stake.
For decades, successive governments have chipped away at health care funding, all the while finding money for everything from corporate tax cuts and the Olympics to eliminating bridge tolls. This has led to chronic shortfalls in almost every sector of the health care system, including acute, long-term and home care.
The pandemic brings the fraudulence of the “affordability” argument into focus. In a time of crisis, chronic underfunding greatly increases the stress on a system already over capacity. It’s not just tax dollars at risk, but the lives of vulnerable populations and care providers.
The coronavirus crisis takes place against a backdrop of revelations about widespread abuse and neglect in the province’s largest chain of privately owned care facilities. Worse, a report by the B.C. Seniors Advocate confirms that such problems are not specific to Retirement Concepts, but symptoms of the general state of for-profit care. To his shame, Health Minister Adrian Dix has not committed to rectifying any of the many serious failings the report outlines.
Experts tell us that the current crisis is not a singular event, but a sign of things to come. As citizens, we need to demand secure, publicly owned and operated care as our fundamental right, and hold to account those politicians who let corporate interests trump public safety.
Ian McLatchie, Davis Bay