Image shows one hand holding a cane and another being held by someone.

Privatization of home care is a hot-button topic as Ontario moves toward the June 2nd election.

Premier Doug Ford’s government has bandied the idea about wanting to bring back a competitive bidding model that started the “systematic privatization” of home care in 1996 under Mike Harris’ leadership.

Under the privatization model, for-profit Home and Community Care Support Services companies were allowed to bid for services against the non-profit Victorian Order of Nurses, the VHA, Red Cross, and others.

Over the years, for-profit organizations continuously took more services, including home visits by nurses and PSWs, and rehabilitation services, the Ontario Health Coalition noted on its website.

The labour union’s president Fred Hahn said competitive bidding drives down prices, which sounds like a good idea in theory, but hurts the sector in practice.

“The reason they provide a cheaper cost to say they can provide the service is because they’re driving down wages and benefits for workers,” he explained.

“Soon, it will become impossible to attract people to do this important work.”

Hahn noted there’s few health benefits for these mostly part-time non-profit workers and if full privatization is achieved, they will have to go back to “square one” and rebuild.

Hahn reiterated other concerns from advocates about the consequences of privatization, namely less time for home care visits, poor continuity of care, and high staff turnover contributing to severe employee shortages.

Ontario’s for-profit long-term-care homes have also reported more deaths on average than non-profit and municipal facilities.

“We see a massive turnover rate because of low pay, because of the pressures caused by privatization in the past,” Hahn noted.

“The pandemic just made all of that worse.”

Additionally, profits are taken from public funds that should go to improve staffing and care.

An Ontario Auditor’s General Report from 2015 outlined private home care companies are paid between $29.50 to almost $49 in public funds per hour.

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