By Marie DellaVedova
Political Advocacy Representative, District 3 Algoma, RTOERO
During this federal election campaign, it is important to remember two unresolved healthcare issues that continue to impose grave consequences.
One of those issues is our inadequate long-term care system. Well before the pandemic there were many reports about an extreme shortage of facilities to meet the needs of long-term care patients, a lack of a clear crisis response strategy, an extreme shortage of staffing, understocked supplies and underpaid staff. The system is so broken that corporate owners of for-profit long-term care homes reap millions of dollars in profit while elderly and frail residents go without adequate basic hygiene and healthcare. In Ontario the highest percentage of all long-term care Covid-19 deaths occurred in privately owned institutions. Inadequate care levels continue in understaffed long-term care facilities. People should be able to count on a system that prioritizes the care, safety and dignity of seniors. In order to provide a community safety net for the most vulnerable among us, all long-term care homes should be not-for-profit. Canada needs a national plan for long-term care homes with national standards and processes for robust accountability.
In Canada over 14,000 long-term care and retirement home residents and staff died in the first two waves of the pandemic and over 80,000 residents and staff have been infected. Many of those infected are suffering lasting effects. It behooves all political parties to support national standards that have resident care as a priority and not profit-making. The federal government will have to work collaboratively with other levels of government, but it can be done.
A second pressing healthcare issue is the need for a national Pharmacare plan. Canada is the only developed country in the world with a universal health-care system that excludes a drug plan. Even though medications are a very essential part of our health care system, many Canadians struggle between purchasing the necessities of life and filling their medical prescriptions.
Canada needs a national Pharmacare program that ensures access to medications and treatments essential to well-being and health. Economic analyses overwhelmingly indicate that it would be cost effective for Canada to have a national Pharmacare program.
In 2019 an expert panel appointed by the Liberal government recommended a universal, single-payer public Pharmacare system, but that promise has not been fulfilled. Earlier this year a private member’s bill to establish a legal framework for a national Pharmacare plan was defeated in the House of Commons. To much dismay in the medical field, the spring budget had barely a mention of the long promised national Pharmacare plan, and little funding. All the while, front-line doctors and nurses are seeing more and more patients whose health conditions have worsened from trying to ration medications they cannot afford. Resistance on the part of the big pharmaceutical industry is expected but access to medications to keep Canadians healthy must be paramount.
RTOERO is a bilingual, trusted voice on healthy, active aging. Recognizing that older adults are the fastest-growing age group in Canada, we advocate for critical policy improvements to address urgent needs now and create a more secure and compassionate future for everyone.
RTOERO believes that for too long the “business” of providing health care has failed many Canadians. This has consequences not only for the affected individuals but for our society as a whole as we contend with rising hospital and drug costs and all the costs associated with a sicker population.
Political commitment and funding for a universal Pharmacare program and national standards in long-term care should be national priorities. In this federal election let’s find out where our candidates stand on these urgent issues.
Then we can vote for meaningful change.