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The politics of seniors’ care under scrutiny

The politics of seniors’ care under scrutiny

Voters need to pressure the provincial government to preserve and improve BC’s struggling health care system was the message from speakers at the second public forum organized by Protect Public Health Care Sunshine Coast on April 30.

Access to publicly-funded health care services has declined dramatically in BC since 2001 says researcher Andrew Longhurst, who presented his recent report on Privatization and Declining Access to BC Seniors’ Care (prepared for the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).

Speaking before an audience of more than 100 people at the Sechelt Band Hall, Longhurst said that “services are not keeping pace with our growing population.”

The report measured the availability of services against the population over the age of 75 during the years 2001 to 2016. It found that across BC there were 32 per cent fewer residential care beds per capita and, in Vancouver Coastal Health, there were 49 per cent fewer home support services per capita.

This lack of home support services and long term care has led to hospital overcrowding. Longhurst said that 13 per cent of hospital days in BC in 2016 were taken up by patients who shouldn’t be in hospital. And a lack of beds is the largest single factor driving increased surgical wait times.

Longhurst also targeted the private ownership of care facilities. In 2001, 24 per cent were owned by for-profit companies and by 2016 that had grown to 34 per cent. “Ownership of facilities matters,” said Longhurst.

“Put very simply, we get better value for money when public dollars are going to services delivered on a non-profit basis and not going into administrative costs or profits. Those public dollars from taxpayers can go directly into front line care rather than into investors’ pockets.”

Longhurst later added that when private companies buy care homes, often “the primary business model is about acquiring real estate and flipping real estate.” He warned that the public has no control over whether facilities will remain open or be closed so the land can be sold.

The forum’s second speaker, Edith MacHattie, Co-Chair of the BC Health Coalition, spoke to the “urgent need to protect the system that we have.”

MacHattie expressed her frustration that successful pilot programs to reduce wait times have failed to be implemented province-wide. “Underfunding has left the public system increasingly stretched and often evidence-based innovations or pilot programs are not scaled up because they’re not funded,” she said.

She said that Health authorities “are being starved by the provincial government and are expected to provide more and more services with less dollars.”

The BC Health Care Coalition became involved in electoral politics because they feel that the system needs strong leadership.

The Coalition is asking voters to support candidates who will best improve and protect the public healthcare system. A comparison of the party platforms on healthcare has been compiled and published at bchealthcoalition.ca.   Donna McMahon

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