BC FORUM News from the Advocate, Spring 2017
Health care in BC pushed to near lowest level in Canada
Even as they more than doubled unfair MSP premiums, Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals have steadily underfunded health care. In 2001, our province was second out of ten in health care investments per capita. By 2016, we had crashed to eighth place.
In Clark’s 2017 budget, health care continues to decline as a share of our economy, dropping from 7.8 per cent of GDP in 2015/16 to a projected 7.4 per cent by 2019/20, even as the population ages.
In short, British Columbians are not getting the level of care they need and deserve.
There is stunning understaffing in seniors’ residential care. Data released by B.C.’s Seniors’ Advocate shows that 91 per cent of care homes fail to meet the government’s own staffing guidelines.
In addition, the now chronic shortage of residential care beds places heavy pressure on acute care hospitals. In Sechelt, for example, 40 per cent of acute care beds are occupied by people who should be in residential care. This both costs more and makes hospitals less able to meet the acute care needs of their communities.
Home support declines
The number of seniors in B.C. has increased by 4 per cent in the last year, but in three out of five health authorities the Christy Clark government is providing fewer home support hours.
Access to home support services has declined significantly since 2001. Home support clients are likely to be older, with serious health problems, and more complex needs.
Reduced access to home support is also destabilizing the health of seniors with moderate care needs who cannot get timely services. These services would keep them healthy and living at home. Some find they can’t qualify for home support services until a health crisis puts them in hospital. This is expensive and a needless threat to their health.
Near breaking point
A report by the Integrated Care Advocacy Group (ACA) and the B.C. Health Coalition (BCHC) says home support is near the breaking point.
The report found the lack of home support leaves seniors unsupported, family caregivers overburdened, and costly hospital services overcrowded.
“The home support system could be doing so much more to help seniors stay healthy and live independently,” said Marcy Cohen, a researcher with ICA and BCHC and adjunct SFU faculty member.
“In the face of rising health costs and an aging population, investing in home support will maximize the health and well-being of seniors and the cost effectiveness of our health services.”
While the number of seniors in B.C. nearly doubled, the number of seniors receiving home support in 2013-14 was virtually identical to the number receiving home support in 2001-02, said the report.