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  • Volume Eight, Number Seven: October 2003

    Continuing Care Crisis Sparks Calls for Health Minister Resignation

    Marco Procaccini

    Citing information contained in a secret government report and new figures that show that the B.C. Liberals' seniors' care strategy is in serious trouble, a coalition of public health care advocates today called for the resignation of the minister responsible for seniors.

    The B.C. Health Coalition says that as a result of government policy, more than 3,300 long-term care beds have closed or are in the process of closing despite the fact that the population of seniors, 75 years and older, in B.C. is forecast to increase by 68 per cent over the next 20 years.

    That will leave British Columbia with the lowest number of beds for people aged 75 years and older of any province in Canada.

    But planning scenarios contained in a confidential health ministry discussion document contemplate cutting long-term care by as much as 5,600 beds by 2007 and replacing these services with assisted living units and, for the first time, with already over-burdened home support services.

    That's a problem, says BC Health Coalition coordinator Terrie Hendrickson, because B.C.'s health authorities have only announced plans to provide about 3,300 assisted living units - less than half of what is needed under the most conservative scenario contained in the report.

    "Even by their own assumptions, the government's seniors' care strategy is in shambles," says Hendrickson. "It's time for government to admit that it has no workable plan for seniors' care and engage in a real discussion with communities across B.C. on how to provide quality health care for our growing seniors' population."

    The B.C. Coalition of People with Disabilities' Tom McGregor says he's alarmed at the suggestion in the government report that long-term care be replaced with home support.

    "Right now, there's not enough home support hours to give current recipients the assistance they need to live independently in dignity and in fact, many have been cut off," says McGregor.

    "Government scenarios that shift between 1,400 and 5,300 more clients onto home support are unrealistic. Using home support to care for a client base with increasingly complex care needs is reckless and will result in more pressure on our hospitals."

    The Seniors Network BC co-chair Joyce Jones says the government must be held to account for their lack of planning, and for the anxiety they've caused the frail elderly, the disabled and their families.

    "When it comes to residential care for seniors and the disabled, this government has lost its way and we're paying the price in communities across the province," says Jones.

    "It's time for a new advocate on this issue in the provincial cabinet. It's time for the minister responsible to step aside."

    In their 'New Era' election document, the B.C. Liberals committed to building 5,000 new long-term care beds by 2006.

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