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Study: Embrace national long-term care standards

Call to direct public funding only to public and non-profit long-term care providers

Developing national standards for the long-term care of seniors requires the leadership of the federal government, says the co-author of a new research initiative on the issue.

Marcy Cohen, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – B.C., says provincial leaders must embrace national long-term care standards set by Ottawa because the policy should be national and not province-specific and the federal government controls the lion’s share of discretionary health care funding.

A new research paper is calling for the federal government to establish a national care strategy for seniors in long-term care homes. (Contributed)

Cohen, a research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – B.C., says provincial leaders must embrace national long-term care standards set by Ottawa because the policy should be national and not province-specific and the federal government controls the lion’s share of discretionary health care funding.

photoCohen said private long-term care providers will disapprove, but their research indicates health care funding for the elderly should be focused on public and non-profit providers.

That research is outlined in a policy paper released last month, authored by Cohen along with York University sociology professor Pat Armstrong and CCPA-BC director Shannon Daub.

She said private operators captive to showing a bottom-line profit often don’t utilize funding assistance for adequate staffing, something at the very least the federal government should enforce with standards clearly outlined in a national strategy.

“The federal government has a role in contributing most of the funding to our health care system and most of our social welfare programs….more money has to be provided to the provinces with clear stipulations on how that money is to be spent in such directions as staffing and training,” she said.

Cohen said during the provincial Liberals reign of recent power in B.C. dating back to 2000, a greater emphasis was placed on encouraging private industry long0-term care facility growth, which has produced challenges to care standards which have been illuminated by the COVID-19 pandemic impact on care homes.

“In Ontario, 60 per cent of long-term care is privatized and B.C. under the Liberals has been about building up a private care industry for profit…in B.C. the NDP have introduced some change but largely the same system remains in place that existed under the Liberals,” Cohen said.

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If companies can’t make a profit without adhering to stringent conditions on taxpayer funding assistance, she says the service should be turned back to the public sector.

Cohen cites how the Liberals rolled back unionized health care protections that enabled private and public care home operations to rely more on casual rather than full-time workers to save money on benefits and wages.

“It is one of the things that changed long-term care to a business approach,” said Cohen, noting one measure BC Premier John Horgan has taken is to adopt an on-site hiring policy to reduce long-term care workers having to work at two or three care homes to earn a living wage.

A guiding principle in the report’s recommendations suggests meeting the needs of seniors and those who care for them first, not profits.

Some of those recommendations include:

• Ensure access based on assessed care needs, and not ability to pay – which includes providing enough care beds so no one waits too long to get into care.

• Plan for a minimum of 70 per cent full-time staff that work in a single site, with the remaining 30 per cent as permanent part-time staff.

• Ensure that public money goes only to public and non-profit care providers.

• Determine education and training standards that support existing staff and new hires, working in partnership with public post-secondary institutions, unions and professional organizations.

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Seniors