From The Advocate, March 2012
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Call to action mostly ignored
Ombudsperson calls for action - government tells seniors to keep waiting
Published March, 2012 - The people who broke the system are in no hurry to fix it. In a report that was three years in the making, and more than 400 pages in length, Ombudsperson Kim Carter called for “consistent, province-wide standards and processes that treat seniors across B.C. in a fair and equitable manner.”
She pointed out there are no minimum standards of care in many facilities. She uncovered instances of beds soaked in urine in residential homes, feces caked on bed railings, and residents being advised to go to bed at 4 pm due to staff shortages.
In response, on Valentine’s Day, the B.C. Liberal government announced a “seniors’ agenda.”
“This announcement certainly makes it sound like the province wants to renew its commitment to seniors, focus on their needs, listen to their concerns and respect their choices,” said the Nanaimo Daily News in an editorial. “But something is missing. What’s missing is concrete action.”
The government’s “action plan” included setting up a toll-free telephone number by June, fixing up a website by September (which they had previously promised to do by September 2009), and creating a Seniors’ Advocate office sometime after six months of consultation.
“This is not a very serious response to a very comprehensive report,” said NDP Leader Adrian Dix. “This response, unfortunately, tries to damp down a serious debate we have to have on seniors’ care in the province. I think it’s very disappointing.”
Dix noted that his party introduced legislation to create an advocate for seniors in 2007, and it shouldn’t take six more months for the government to study the idea. He said the NDP would happily cooperate with the government to pass legislation by the end of the week.
BCGEU President Darryl Walker, whose union represents the largest number of home support workers in B.C., said the Ombudsperson’s report validates the experience of seniors, their families and care providers.
“There has never been an investigation of this magnitude in this province. Her recommendations are concrete and we urge the government and health authorities to take action to make significant changes,” he said.
Walker added that many of the challenges can be traced to a decade of privatization and cuts to health services.
The BCGEU welcomed the recognition that home support usually costs much less than assisted living or residential care, and urged the government to invest in providing full and adequate care to seniors in their homes. The government did promise to give $15 million to the United Way for non-medical home support – an idea that was dismissed as “an insult to seniors” by the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. (COSCO), of which BC FORUM is an affiliate.
“Not only is it insufficient in scope, but the program completely ignores the criteria laid down by the Ombudsperson. The Ombudsperson’s report calls for standards, guidelines or directives, none of which are present in this program,” said Art Kube, President of COSCO.
It is worth remembering that it was the B.C. Liberal government that slashed home support, contracted out and privatized health services, increased MSP premiums, and reduced prescription drug coverage. Bill 29, which allowed care homes to fire union staff and contract out their jobs, continues to create instability for clients and staff.
When you add in the lack of objective and enforceable standards of care, the result has been a 10 year race to the bottom in care for seniors.