It's a lesson that came at a murderous cost but the Covid-19 pandemic opened Canadian eyes to the national disgrace of our nursing homes which accounted for 82 per cent of the death toll.
A survey out of the Angus Reid Institute finds that two-thirds of Canadians are fed up. 66 per cent of respondents said it's time for government to nationalize these care homes.
Opinions on this issue diverge primarily by political affiliation. Those who voted for the Conservative Party in last year’s federal election are a group divided, with 47 per cent favouring nationalization and 53 per cent opposing it. Among past supporters of the other major federal parties, at least three-quarters favour government control of privately owned LTCFs.
Canada is not the only country whose elderly have been exposed to devastating rates of death and endured terrible circumstances in long-term care facilities. According to the World Health Organization approximately half of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Europe and close to 40 per cent in the United States have occurred in LTCFs.
The hardest hit provinces in Canada have been the most populous ones; Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, more than 280 facilities have reported an outbreak, leading to nearly 1,500 deaths. In Quebec, more than 270 facilities were infected and more than 2,000 residents have died.
While there are months of debate forthcoming about what went wrong, who is to blame and how to prevent it from ever happening again, there are already strong calls to overhaul long-term care. One of the most prominent suggestions for how to approach this, made by health officials and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, among others, is to nationalize long-term care and extend it under the auspices of the Canada Health Act.
While politicians debate the merits of such a change, it appears that most Canadians would welcome it as a start. Two-thirds (66%) say that they would support such a shift in policy while one-third (34%) say nationalization would be the wrong direction to pursue.Everyone, it seems, has a clear opinion. For one third it's a definite thumbs down. But, fortunately, we still live in a democracy and 66 per cent is a super majority in anyone's books. This pandemic is shredding the notion that the "invisible hand" of the marketplace is the solution to what ails us. The market serves capital, not the public interest. It doesn't nurture the public. It feeds off the public.