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We have failed to protect seniors

Deplorable conditions in privately-owned long term care facilities are once again making headlines across the country. While the COVID-19 crisis has brought much needed attention to this critical issue, it's tragic that more lives had to be lost under horrific conditions in order for it to happen. Since I was first elected in May 2019 I have raised the issue of substandard care in privately-owned and operated long term care facilities multiple times in the House of Commons. I spoke about it at length a little over a month ago, on March 3rd, 2020. Below is a transcript of my speech.

Thank you Mr. Speaker Retirement Concepts runs 23 long term care facilities for seniors in Canada. Nineteen are in BC, and seven are on Vancouver Island. Retirement Concepts provides independent living, assisted living, and complex care for seniors.

In 2017, this government approved the sale of Retirement Concepts to the Chinese corporation Anbang Insurance. The following year AnBang’s CEO was convicted of corruption and the company was taken over by the Chinese state.

The conditions at Retirement Concepts Nanaimo Seniors Village in my riding were atrocious. The home was understaffed and provided substandard care. Seniors went for weeks without receiving a bath. They were left in soiled clothes and soiled beds. Bed sores and other related health consequences of neglect were common.

After numerous complaints by residents and their families the Vancouver Island Health Authority took over Nanaimo Seniors Village and two other Retirement Concepts care facilities on Vancouver Island. Just last month another facility in Summerland BC had to be taken over.

Under the Investment Canada Act Anbang had an obligation to maintain staffing levels. The federal government made assurances to the provinces that patient care would be protected. The BC Seniors Advocate has stated that she does not understand how the federal government could make such an assurance. The reporting and transparency required to make that promise does not exist.

The federal government should not be permitting foreign ownership of businesses that provide taxpayer funded healthcare services. When seniors are hospitalized as a result of neglect and substandard care we all carry the cost.

Our seniors deserve better than for-profit care run by foreign corporations that lack accountability.

Recent analysis by the Office of the BC Seniors Advocate found that:

The not-for-profit sector spends 59% of its revenue on direct care. That’s 24% more per resident, per year than the for-profit sector.

The for-profit sector failed to deliver 207,000 hours of funded care. The not-for-profit sector provided 80,000 more hours of direct care than they were paid to deliver.

Wages for care workers in the for-profit sector were 28% less than the industry standard. Nanaimo Seniors Village had a hard time attracting workers with an average wage of $18 per hour rather than the $24.00/hr industry standard.

There is a waiting list for every government funded care bed. There is no competition to provide these services, no free market.

Those beds will be filled whether a facility is properly staffed and delivering appropriate care or not. That revenue stream is guaranteed.

The abuses that have resulted from this situation are horrifying. We have failed to protect our seniors.

We MUST remove the financial incentive to provide substandard seniors care. Corporations can not be permitted to squeeze profits out of the healthcare system through vague accounting, paying below average wages and neglecting vulnerable seniors. That is unacceptable.

The operation of Seniors long term care facilities is under the jurisdiction of the provinces, but the government must be actively involved in creating a solution to these problems.

The government needs to mandate national standards to ensure the safety and dignity of Canadian seniors.

And going forward, the government should not permit foreign ownership of businesses that provide taxpayer funded health care services.

Now that the Chinese State has created a new corporate entity called Dajia which owns Retirement Concepts, it is time for the federal government to review the original purchase and rescind the agreement.

The Canadian seniors of today were the workers and business owners of yesterday. They worked hard, paid their taxes and contributed to building what they believed to be retirement security. They are also our parents and grandparents. We owe them dignity and care in their final years. No one in a care facility in Canada should be left in a soiled diaper for hours until they get a septic wound. No one in a care facility in Canada should be left without a bath for weeks on end.

We should not have allowed this critical healthcare service to be sold to the highest foreign bidder. This crisis needs urgent attention!


Green Party calls for stronger federal oversight of long-term care facilities - April 15, 2020

Privatization, the pre-existing condition killing seniors in long-term care - Robert Green, Ricochet, April 14, 2020

A Billion Reasons to Care - Office of the BC Seniors Advocate, Feb 4, 2020

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