Ottawa (02 Feb. 2022) — This week Sienna Senior Living announced that it was acquiring a 50% ownership stake in 11 “seniors’ living assets” in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Sienna is expecting the expansion “to generate an approximate 6% unlevered yield."
This may be good news for Sienna’s shareholders, but it’s bad news for those concerned about the quality of care seniors in Canada receive. As a 2021 National Union report on the privatization of long-term care made clear, when residential facilities for seniors are owned by for-profit corporations, the quality of care suffers.
This became all too clear during the COVID-19 pandemic — and Sienna Senior Living’s track record was particularly bad.
Sienna Senior Living singled out for high death toll during COVID-19 pandemic
On June 16, 2020, Global News reported that a third of deaths at Ontario long-term care facilities were at facilities owned by just 2 companies – Sienna Senior Living and Revera Inc. And the problems continued.
5 months later it was reported that a COVID-19 outbreak at a Sienna Senior Living Facility in Scarborough, Ontario, had infected 90% of residents and that staff shortages were leaving workers in the facility very stressed. In January 2021, the Globe and Mail reported that paramedics were alarmed by conditions inside St. George Care Community, a Sienna Senior Living facility in Toronto that was the site of what was the worst outbreak in Ontario at the time.
As of February 2, 2022, over 400 residents of Sienna Senior Living facilities had died as a result of the pandemic.
Sienna shareholders still were paid though workers complained of staff shortages
While Sienna Senior Living couldn’t manage to control COVID-19 outbreaks in its facilities, shareholders were still getting their dividends. While workers were expressing concerns about staff shortages, Sienna Senior Living paid out $43.6 million in dividends to shareholders. What makes both the staff shortages and payments to shareholders all the more outrageous is that Sienna was also receiving millions in additional funding from the Ontario government.
Death rates higher in for-profit long-term care facilities
The deaths in Sienna Senior Living facilities were part of a pattern. In most provinces, death rates were higher in for-profit long-term care facilities than in public or not-for-profit facilities.
When long-term care facilities are for-profit, investor profits eat up funds that are desperately needed elsewhere.
For-profit long-term care facilities usually have lower staffing levels than public or not-for-profit facilities. For-profit long-term care operators are less likely to upgrade their facilities. During the pandemic, cutting corners in these and other areas had deadly consequences in for-profit long-term care facilities.
Seniors' care needs to be public
For anyone who believes in accountability or that vulnerable seniors in Canada deserve high-quality care, it seems incredible that Sienna Senior Living is being allowed to expand. But when caring for vulnerable seniors is privatized, that is exactly what will happen. And until long-term care is made part of the public health care system, it will continue to happen.