The current COVID-19 pandemic has been horrifying on so many levels. The fear of contracting the virus, hideous though that is, is just the thin edge of the wedge. Those who must work in what have become known as front-line positions – everyone from doctors and nurses to police and firefighters to truckers and store clerks – now face terrifying work conditions.
In Quebec, we have public long-term residences for seniors who can no longer care for themselves. The monthly rent covers care and meals. It is taken from the residents’ pensions. Extras such as manicures and hair-styling are separate and paid for in cash. The goal of these institutions is to provide the best quality care for residents.
We also have private residences that allege to provide the same services, but charge significantly more. The goal of these places is to make a buck. Unfortunately, many people are left with no alternative but to go into a private residence as the public, government-run homes are always full.
Recently a journalist with The Montreal Gazette, Aaron Derfel, uncovered absolutely disgusting conditions in one private home in suburban Montreal. His opening paragraph was: “A privately run seniors’ residence in Dorval that is grappling with an outbreak of COVID-19 has been described as a “concentration camp” — with unfed and soiled elderly residents inside — by health professionals who came to those residents’ rescue, a Montreal Gazette investigation has found”. The Herron residence in the article recorded 31 deaths in a months’ time.
In the wake of Mr. Derfel’s findings, several investigations have been launched into the operations of the home. Criminal charges against the owners have not been ruled out.
I have always been perplexed at the notion of private health care. I’m no economist, but as I understand it, the goal of a private (i.e. for profit) entity is to make money – a profit. Not just a profit, but the greatest margin of profit possible. If a widget company can make widgets for 15% less by laying-off workers and installing a deluxe widget machine, that’s what they’ll do. And if that machine can be cleaned once a week instead of daily, more savings on reduced cleaning staff.
But, and this may well come as news to those who own private long-term residences, humans are not widgets. Corner-cutting to increase profit may work in many industries, but not when the provision of people’s healthcare and safety is the “product”. The gleaning of profit off the backs of the sick and infirm, by cutting corners, is egregious. This is not just a matter of negligence or forgetfulness, it is a calculated predetermined attempt to line ownership’s pockets before and during a time of crisis. Disgraceful.
I don’t claim to have written the book on capitalism, and call me a socialist if you want, but there are places and times when profit should not be the bottom-line.