Have they no shame? Keith Roulston editorial
As someone who struggled to keep several companies viable over a half-century in business I’m not one of those who thinks profit is a dirty word, but it’s disgusting when you make profits while hundreds of your clients die.
According to a Globe and Mail story last week, that’s what happened among several large companies operating long-term care (LTC) homes in Ontario, with the CEOs of these companies receiving hefty bonuses for 2020, a year that saw hundreds of their
LTC residents die after being infected by COVID-19.
Extendicare, which owns or operates 71 long-term care facilities in Ontario, paid CEO Dr. Michael Guerriere $1.71 million in 2020, including a bonus of $467,630, which was up from 2019’s $329,721. Poor Dr. Guerriere missed out on an additional $150,000 bonus despite the company exceeding its financial goals by 40 per cent because, the company said, of “the extraordinary nature of the year”.
It was extraordinary alright. Extendicare’s Tendercare Living Centre in east end Toronto, has seen at least 73 residents die of
COVID-19. A second Extendicare-run facility, Orchard Villa in Pickering, has had at least 70 deaths.
In January of this year, a class action lawsuit was initiated against Extendicare seeking more than $200 million, alleging the company failed to respond properly to the pandemic and was negligent in the care of residents.
A similar $500 million lawsuit announced around the same time also names Extendicare as well as other long-term care providers across Ontario such as Chartwell and Sienna Senior Living. The claims in neither of the suits have been proven in court.
Sienna Senior Living Inc., which as of December, 2019 owned and operated 37 seniors’ living residences in Ontario, said it missed its financial goals for profit but still gave CEO Nitin Jain $1.23 million in 2020, including a $336,375 bonus. Way back in June of 2020 Global News reported that Sienna led the list of companies with fatalities from the pandemic with 295 deaths in nine of its homes with outbreaks. I was unable to find how many residents had died in Sienna homes since then.
In April, Chartwell Retirement Residences told shareholders it responded effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and gave itself perfect scores for employee engagement, customer satisfaction and its reputation with the public.
Despite patting itself on the back, Chartwell admitted 12 of its retirement residences and four of its long-term care homes had been declared by public-health authorities to be in COVID-19 outbreak as of March 4. “Despite extraordinary efforts, COVID-19 tragically claimed the lives of some of our residents. Our thoughts are with those who lost loved ones to this disease.”
Chartwell saw 58 deaths in its homes in the first wave alone. Still, it rewarded current CEO Vlad Volodarski handsomely, to the tune of $1.91 million, including a $323,967 bonus. Three other top executives made bonuses between $187,000 and $207,000, with total paycheques ranging from $1.04 million to $1.17 million.
Among the many sad stories resulting from the pandemic, none comes close to the tragedy of the failure of all parties to protect residents of LTC and retirement communities. As of April 28, 3,756 residents and 11 staff members in province’s LTC system had died.
The government of Premier Doug Ford has come under withering criticism over the LTC scandal. In late April, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk issued a report on pandemic readiness and response in long-term care which stated that by the time the novel coronavirus started to ravage Ontario's long-term care homes in March, 2020, it was obvious “aggressive infection prevention, detection and patient care actions were needed – and needed quickly – to prevent staggering death rates” in the LTC community. It didn’t happen.
The government deserves to take its licks over the failures of the LTC system, particularly since it had cut back on inspections of homes after it took office in 2018. The government’s failure to learn lessons from the first wave of the pandemic and to apply them to the second is also unforgivable – but the home operators share the blame.
Not all the deaths were in corporately-owned homes. People died in small, family-run homes and in government-run facilities, too. But part of the explanation has always been that the government just isn’t funding seniors’ care well enough. However, when companies are making handsome profits and handing out fat bonuses to executives while the people they’re supposed to be caring for are dying, there’s something wrong. Have the executives, taking these bonuses, no shame?