Seniors shortchanged by B.C. home and residential care policies

The provincial government created, “a model in which public funding subsidizes the real estate acquisitions of private investors while allowing these operators to erode wages and working conditions through contracting out and contract-flipping.” — CCPA study

Ottawa (06 April 2017) — A recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) shows how seniors in British Columbia are being short-changed by the failure of the B.C. government to adequately fund home care and residential care.

The report, Privatization & Declining Access to BC Seniors’ Care: AN URGENT CALL FOR POLICY CHANGE. shows that since 2001 there have been a 20 per cent drop in the ratio of residential care and assisted living beds to people 75 or over. For home support — help with day-to-day living — the ratio has dropped by 30 per cent. While there has been some improvement in the percentage of seniors 75 and over getting home care, based on the drop in the visits per client, quality has suffered.

Privatization means lower quality residential care

One finding in the report was that provincial government policies that encourage privatization of residential care have harmed the quality of care seniors receive. According to the report, the provincial government created “a model in which public funding subsidizes the real estate acquisitions of private investors, while allowing these operators to erode wages and working conditions through contracting out and contract-flipping.”

The combination of privatization and weakening protection for workers almost always means higher staff turnover and lower staffing levels, both of which affect quality. It also appears to have placed vulnerable seniors at risk of being suddenly left with nowhere to live.

Recently,the CBC reported that a for-profit retirement care operator attempted to evict 20 seniors in subsidized units from an assisted-living facility so they could fill the units with more profitable residents. That would not have happened with a publicly owned or non-profit facility. While the seniors have been allowed to stay in their homes for now, what happens to them after the contract between the facility owner and Vancouver Coast Health expires in less than 2 years remains unclear.

Key services eliminated in home support

The reduction in the number of medical appointments relative to the number of seniors over 75 is just one of the ways the level of care for seniors trying to live independently has been reduced.

Seniors used to be able to get help with tasks like meal preparation, laundry and light housekeeping. For many seniors that kind of help is essential for them to continue to live in their own homes. But that didn’t stop the provincial government from making drastic cuts.

Recent funding announcement suspiciously close to provincial election

For 15 years the B.C. Liberal government has been content with the steady erosion in the quality of care seniors receive. But just over a month before a provincial election, the government announced $125 million per year in funding for 4 years. The funding is still not enough to offset 15 years of decline. And people are more than a little cynical about government U-turns on the eve of an election that looks like it will be close.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. ~ NUPGE