The B.C. government is heeding its seniors’ care advisors and will hire 1,500 more people over the next four years to assist seniors in residential care, Health Minister Terry Lake said Thursday.
Lake pledged $500 million more over four years to bring the average care provided to 3.3 hours per resident per day, including health-care assistants, nurses and physiotherapists. The money is included in the pre-election budget presented in February.
B.C. Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie praised the commitment to increase respite care for families caring for a frail elderly relative at home, and increasing support in care homes.
“It could mean that I can go to the bathroom within 15 minutes of asking, instead of 45.” Mackenzie said. “It might mean I can ask for a bath on Tuesday and get one, even though I had one on Saturday. It might mean I can get the aide to walk me to the dining room using my walker, rather than put me in a wheelchair, because that’s the faster way to get me there.”
Lake said the plan will include a “robust monitoring system” to ensure that the funded hours of care are being delivered, whether facilities are run by health authorities, non-profits or private care homes.
NDP health critic Judy Darcy rejected Lake’s description of waiting for the provincial budget and a recent agreement with Ottawa on new health transfers that targets funding for home care. She said federal health transfers have been increasing six per cent each year for the past 10 years, while the B.C. government boasts of surpluses as large as $2 billion last year.
“The government has made the wrong choices for 16 years, and has neglected seniors’ care to the point where it’s become a crisis and a national shame,” Darcy said.
The fund allocation in the plan is an extra $45 million for the fiscal year that begins April 1, rising by a further $125 million in 2019, $150 million in 2020 and $180 million in 2021.
Lake said it includes a $10 million fund for equipment such as wheelchairs and ceiling lifts, to reduce the injuries to care home workers moving patients.
Hospital Employees’ Union business manager Jennifer Whiteside praised the plan, and called for stricter limits on private care home profits and contracting out by health authorities.
“More staff means that proper, un-rushed care and greater dignity for seniors are possible,” Whiteside said.