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Federal NDP leader touts pledge on long-term care: ‘We’re losing loved ones’

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Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was in Winnipeg Thursday touting his party’s plan for the elimination of for-profit long-term care.

Under the plan, Singh says an NDP government would work with provincial and territorial leaders, experts and workers to set national standards for nursing homes, and tether those benchmarks to $5-billion in federal funding.

The party wants to see for-profit homes out of the picture by 2030.

“We want to bring long-term care under the same principles as the Canada Health Act, which is what gave us Universal Health Care. Most importantly, we need to get profit out of care homes quickly,” the NDP leader told Global News Morning Winnipeg Thursday.

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“We’re losing loved ones, we’re losing people, and the cost of that is too much to bear.”

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Singh said the large cost involved in making all care homes public will be worth it by giving some of the country’s most vulnerable fair and equal care.

He said the NDP’s potential election promise follows through on the party’s calls to immediately transform Revera from a for-profit long-term care chain owned by a Crown pension fund into a publicly managed entity.

The company runs more than 500 seniors residences in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. It is owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which bought it out in 2007.

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Maples Personal Care Home, a Revera-owned home in Winnipeg, gained national attention after reporting dozens of deaths — including seven residents in a two-day period in November — and concerns about whether residents were receiving adequate care during COVID-19.

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A recently released report into the problems at Maples found 56 residents of the home died during the outbreak that was declared on Oct. 20 and lasted until Jan. 12. The report says 74 staff members and 157 residents tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

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Several studies over the past six months have found that for-profit care homes were likelier to see more extensive COVID-19 outbreaks and more deaths, exposing cracks in care models across the country.

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“Profits should never be put ahead of the care of some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Singh said Thursday.

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Health Canada has referred questions about ending Revera’s for-profit model to the provinces, given their constitutional jurisdiction over health care.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reiterated that he respects provincial jurisdiction while seeking to protect seniors’ rights through billions of dollars in extra support funds transferred to the provinces over the past year.

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Meanwhile, Singh is also calling for more transparency when it comes to vaccine distribution so people will have realistic timelines of when they will get the shot.

Singh’s visit to Winnipeg had all the trademarks of a campaign stop. While the party leader said the NDP doesn’t want to see a federal election called, the party is ready should it happen.

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“We’ve got money in the bank and we are ready to fight an election, but again, that is not our goal,” he said.

“Our goal is to get is to get help to people, to get the vaccine out to people, to support seniors in long-term care, and to get people improved access to paid sick leave so we can keep people safe and happy.”

–With files from Gabrielle Marchand and The Canadian Press

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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