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 in our community. Although our coalition was founded to address this particular issue, from the outset we have seen the defence of publicly-owned and operated long-term care as only one stage in an ongoing fight to defend our public health care system. The COVID-19 crisis shows how great the stakes of this struggle are.
For the past 30 years, successive governments have chipped away at health care funding, all the while finding money to pay for everything from tax cuts to the Olympics, to eliminating bridge tolls. In our community, this has led to chronic shortfalls in almost every sector of the health care system, including acute, long-term and home care. The fraudulence of the “affordability” argument is brought into focus when what is at stake is not just tax dollars but the lives of vulnerable seniors and their 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 BC 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, Adrian Dix has not committed to rectifying any of the many serious failings the report outlines. In the midst of a pandemic, this is unacceptable.
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.