Can wealth buy health?

di Priscilla Pajdo del May 5, 2020

TORONTO - Residents in Ontario seem to be doing their part in trying to "plank the curve". Numbers released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) indicate the rate of increase of Covid-19 cases has slowed to an average of 2.8% over the last week. As of May 2, the total confirmed cases in Ontario was 17,119 (3.1% increase from day before).

Even so, as Ontario continues to ramp up daily testing, more positive cases will be identifi ed. This is especially the case in the Long Term Care Home (LTCH) sector. To understand how Covid-19 is impacting various regions in the GTA, we need to take a closer look.

Here we examine the status of Covid-19 cases in LTCHs of 3 geographical locations: the Regional Municipalities of York, Peel and Halton. On May 2, Halton Region, with a population just over 1/2 million, reported a total case count of 530. Of that total, 4 (less than 1% of regional cases) are resident/patients in LTCHs.

By comparison, Peel Region, largest by far in terms of population with 1.4 million citizens, reported a total case count of 2,574. Seniors living in LTCHs account for 452 cases (18%).

Moving farther east, just north of Toronto, York Region, with a population of 1.1 million, has reported a total of 1,568 positive cases. Of that total, 291 (19%) live in LTCHs.

The Provincial number of fatalities continues to rise. To date, (May 3) there have been 910 resident deaths attributable to Covid-19 in LTCHs across Ontario. To break down that number and the relation among the 3 Regional Municipalities is demonstrated in the chart below.

While the regions of York and Peel have the same number of LTCHs operating in each respective region (28 LTCHs), there have been 67 fatalities in the Region of Peel (7.4% of total fatalities among LTCHs in Ontario) and 59 deaths in LTCHs in York Region (6.5% of LTCH deaths in Ontario), by comparison. Such isn't the case in Halton Region. Although Halton has reported deaths among seniors living in Retirement Residences, the Region has reported no deaths among those who tested positive in LTCHs.

This is an interesting phenomenon when looking at the bigger picture.

Halton Region is a growing municipality where households with two or more people have an average annual household income of $119,408, according to Statistics Canada. One could ask "does financial stability provide protection against this virus?"

York Region comes in 2nd with a median annual household income of $107,385, followed by Peel at $96,263.

Perhaps financial wealth could offer the means to afford better treatment options. One thing is certain; no one is impervious to Covid-19.

The Government of Ontario has made available funding and resources as part of Ontario's Action plan to combat Covid-19 in LTCHs. Measures such as increased testing, screening and ensuring LTCHs are supplied with adequate personal protective equipment. In addition, the Province is providing reinforcement to LTCHs experiencing critical staffing shortages.

While these added measures are welcome relief in the fight against this virus, it is still evident that our seniors living in LTCHs are in greater peril than the rest of us. As the situation continues to unfold in LTCHs, we may need to reassess Government health care policy.

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