Ownership is Not the Issue

The Toronto Star posted an article a few days ago that was focused on for-profit ownership in long-term care. Of all the drama and hype we have seen in the past months, this article captured more clearly than usual the subject of private versus public ownership. It is an excellent learning tool.

The problem with profits: As Ontario’s long-term-care homes stagger under a COVID death toll of more than 3,000, some say it’s time to shut down for-profit homes for good.


However, search as I may, and I have reread it several times, nowhere can I find the core of what we do and why.

I am left with a feeling of helpless futility. 

Outcomes require objective data and while they may drive decisions about legislation, funding and inspections, they fail to address quality of life issues.

What about the folk who are served?

What about the daughter who was called and advised her mother had died, and that she should come and pick up her stuff? She was then directed to the underground garage where her mother’s personal belongings had been stuffed into garbage bags and left among others in an empty parking space. No expression of concern or regret for the daughter’s loss. A complete lack of respect for all that remained of a beautiful lady who had been entrusted to their care.

I recall a garbage bag scandal 30 years ago. We were seriously chastised and rightly so, for putting deceased residents’ belongings in garbage bags. Homes were actually given an extra day they could collect revenue in order to allow for respectful handling of personal possessions.

Here we are again.  

What about the member of my extended family who suffered through a month of neglect and abuse in a long-term care home because she was “combative”? Staff explained that they had no time to determine how best to meet her needs. Of note, she was under 100 pounds and bedridden from the lack of any kind of physiotherapy, and in her dementia possibly fighting for her life.  

She was removed from their “care” and taken to a different home. She was found to be severely dehydrated, disheveled, with filthy clothes, and suffering bedsores over her whole body. 

In neither case was the issue that of ownership, but the evidence of a complete lack of empathy on the part of staff, our front line heroes, for the resident or her family.

What action will have an impact on these types of outcomes in future?

What is critically needed is that intangible quality of caring which will certainly not be achieved through money managers promoting the sector to potential investors.

Nor will it be achieved solely through legislation and inspection. Nor can any amount of money thrown at the “problem” solve it.

There has to be a shift in the overall paradigm. 

Who are we? Whom do we serve and why?

Will the politicians step back and consider the quality and nature of the social service we are offering as their motivation to effect change?

Will the owners understand that this is not an accommodation business, but human lives entrusted to us at their time of greatest need?

Will the educators change their focus from body care and documentation to the personhood of the individual?

Will the students grasp the principle of providing “Home” with comfort, dignity, and respect?

Will the pendulum swing from celebrating our front line heroes to celebrating the Elders we are privileged to serve?

I am hoping, and indeed praying, that in the midst of this relentless tragedy leaders will emerge who will make a difference. 

There is a better way.

And the story continues to unfold.

2 thoughts on “Ownership is Not the Issue

  1. yvonnesweatman January 29, 2021 / 10:35 am

    What you have to say is so important. Can you send your recent blogs to the writer if the article you refer to at the Star. Also send to someone at the Globe and Mail. I truly believe that there is a current awakening of the general public to this public shame. They are ripe for meaningful conversation and action on this issue.




    • gracesweatman January 29, 2021 / 10:49 am

      Thanks for the feedback. Will send i5 to the writer.

      Sent from my iPad



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