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Are new Mackenzie Health Vaughan long-term-care beds just 'fantasy'?
April 22, 2022

The 256 new long-term-care beds in Vaughan, promised April 20 by the Ontario government, “may as well be in a fantasy novel,” the Canadian Union of Public Employees says.

Paul Calandra, minister of long-term care, and King-Vaughan MPP Stephen Lecce said the beds will be part of a new long-term-care home built on lands adjacent to Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital.

But Debra Maxfield, chair of CUPE’s health-care workers co-ordinating committee, said a provincewide severe staffing shortage means many of the Ford government’s promised new long-term-care beds will never open.

Construction of the new Mackenzie Health Vaughan Long-Term Care Centre is expected to start in the winter of 2025 with the facility serving as anchor for a “campus of care,” integrating and centralizing treatment, testing, and health services around the hospital, Lecce said.

It’s part of the Ontario government’s $6.4-billion commitment to build 30,000 net new long-term-care beds by 2028.

Costs have not been finalized as the project is in the planning stages, the ministry said in an email.

There are now 512 new long-term-care beds in development in Vaughan. In addition to the project announced April 20, another project promises 256 beds with the proposed sale of land at 7231 Martin Grove Rd.

Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua expressed gratitude to Calandra “for understanding and acting on this important issue facing our community.”

But Maxfield said there is one thing the province is not understanding: if there is no long-term plan to attract and retain staff, the beds are just “fantasy.”

“In long-term care, we’ve worked like heroes throughout the pandemic and were rewarded with three years of wage restraint,” she said. “People are leaving the sector in droves.

“People are now making more money at their second job at a grocery store or fast food chain. That’s an embarrassment.”

It means York Region will be particularly challenged, given a nine-month wait time for long-term-care beds that is already 40 per cent above the provincial average, Maxfield added.

Maxfield said the job vacancy rate in nursing and residential care facilities has risen by 457 per cent since 2016, and the long-term-care sector needs to attract 59,000 nurses and personal support workers to Ontario in the coming years.

The problem is likely to worsen as the province focuses on subsidizing private long-term-care facilities that have chronically poor wages, bad working conditions and “fatally poor care standards,” she said.

The pandemic highlighted poor conditions at for-profit long-term-care homes, which saw much higher average deaths than did public or not-for-profit facilities.

CUPE wants the province to prioritize building public and non-profit homes to ensure public funds are not siphoned away from staff and care in order to create dividends for shareholders.