More COVID-19 deaths at for-profit nursing homes in Ontario, study finds

More COVID-19 deaths at for-profit nursing homes in Ontario, study finds

TORONTO — For-profit long-term care homes in Ontario saw significantly worse outbreaks of COVID-19 and more related deaths than their non-profit or municipally run counterparts, according to a new study released on Wednesday.

The paper in the peer-reviewed Canadian Medical Association Journal raises questions about the ownership status of nursing homes, a factor the association that speaks for the facilities said last year had no impact on quality of care.

The research looked at all 623 long-term care homes in Ontario, from March 29 — the date of the first reported case of coronavirus in a home — until May 20. Collectively, the facilities housed more than 75,000 seniors — most of them with multiple health conditions, both physical and cognitive.

In all, more than 5,200 residents contracted COVID-19 during the study period. More than one quarter of those infected — 1,450 — died.

In Ontario, 57 per cent of nursing homes are set up to be profit-making — the highest rate in the country. Another 26 per cent are non-profit and 16 per cent are municipally run. While profit status had no impact on whether a facility had a coronavirus outbreak, the study finds, it did play a significant role in what happened if one occurred.

“We did find evidence that for-profit LTC homes have larger COVID-19 outbreaks and more deaths of residents from COVID-19 than non-profit and municipal homes,” the study finds. “Those with older design standards appear to show worse outcomes.”

The study, co-authored by Dr. Nathan Stall with the Sinai Health System and University Health Network in Toronto, also suggests chain-operated for-profit homes — 85 per cent of the commercial facilities — run a significantly higher risk of worse COVID outcomes.

An accompanying commentary notes upgrading facilities — many beds are at or below 1972 standards — likely won’t fix the situation at for-profits if further research confirms chain ownership is a key factor on its own.

Dr. Samir Sinha, a Toronto-based geriatrician not involved in the study, said 30,000 long-term care beds in Ontario are in dire need of upgrades.

“Many of these older multi-bedded homes happen to be owned by for-profits,” Sinha said. “The study really speaks to the need to redevelop that.”

The government of Premier Doug Ford initially promised to build 15,000 beds in five years and redevelop another 15,000, Sinha said. However, only a relative handful have been built or redeveloped, and the government has now significantly tempered its ambitions.

Last week, the government announced it is changing the way it funds long-term care home expansions in a bid to spur construction, while conceding it would now pay for 8,000 new beds, and 12,000 renovated beds in the same five-year period.

In the interim, it has also limited room occupancy to two, further exacerbating bed shortages.

The Ontario Long Term Care association, which speaks for nursing homes and has complained about underfunding, did not respond to a request for comment on the study.

Separately Wednesday, the Ontario Health Coalition said 95 per cent of staff in the province’s nursing homes reported basic care needs of residents — such as bathing, oral care and emotional support — were going unmet due to staff shortages.

Others said they didn’t have enough time to properly feed residents, get them to the washroom on time, or make sure they didn’t develop pressure ulcers — a situation especially problematic at night and on weekends. Most respondents reported the situation had worsened since the pandemic hit in March.

In response, Ford said the survey findings show why his government passed ongoing emergency powers to be able to “flow staff from the hospitals into long-term care.”

Previous research has shown staffing levels play a key role in COVID-19 outcomes, with one California study finding under-staffing doubled the chances of residents’ becoming infected.

“If requirements to fund adequate levels of staffing affect the bottom lines of for-profit facilities, then it might be time for this care to be turned over to public and non-profit entities,” the journal commentary says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is asking Albertans to do their part by observing gathering limits, staying home if unwell, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three new Central zone COVID-19 deaths, Alberta adds 1,433 cases

Red Deer down to 802 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta’a chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Thursday that there are more than 328,000 vaccine appointments booked over the next seven days. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta surpasses 2 million doses administered of COVID-19 vaccine

Red Deer down to 835 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
‘We did not unite around blind loyalty to one man’:Kenney faces internal call to quit

Senior backbench member Todd Loewen, in a letter posted on Facebook, called on Kenney to resign

Alberta continues to wrestle with high COVID-19 case numbers. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer up to 858 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports additional 1,799 cases of the virus

Marc Kielburger, screen left, and Craig Kielburger, screen right, appear as witnesses via video conference during a House of Commons finance committee in the Wellington Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. The committee is looking into Government Spending, WE Charity and the Canada Student Service Grant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau didn’t violate conflict rules over WE Charity, watchdog says

Federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion found that former finance minister Bill Morneau did violate the rules

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is seen at a mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, April 22, 2021. Dr. Ben Chan remembers hearing the preliminary reports back in March of blood clots appearing in a handful of European recipients of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Science on COVID, VITT constantly changing: A look at how doctors keep up

While VITT can represent challenges as a novel disorder, blood clots themselves are not new

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

The historic Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne in southern Alberta is up for sale

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe, was put in handcuffs after an anti-restriction protest Saturday in the parking lot of the business. (Screenshot via The Whistle Stop Facebook page)
Alberta RCMP investigating possible threat to police after Mirror rally

Online images show RCMP members, vehicles in crosshairs of a rifle

An Israeli attack helicopter launches flares as he flies over the Israeli Gaza border, southern Israel, Thursday, May 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Singh calls for halt on Canadian arms sales to Israel as violence escalates in region

Government data shows Canada sent $13.7 million in military goods and technology to Israel in 2019

New homes are built in a housing construction development in the west-end of Ottawa on Thursday, May 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Budget’s foreign-homebuyers tax could bring in $509 million over 4 years, PBO says

Liberals are proposing a one per cent tax on vacant homes owned by foreign non-residents

A Canadian flag patch is shown on a soldier’s shoulder in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian Forces says it has charged one of its members in the death of an army reservist from British Columbia during a training exercise at a military base in Alberta last year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg
Canadian Forces member charged in death of army reservist during training exercise

Cpl. Lars Callsen has been charged with one count of negligence

Most Read