Health Minister Adrian Dix listens while Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie speaks at an event, June 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C.’s health care budget has the biggest numbers of any provincial government function, but for seniors in residential care, the most important numbers are the small ones.

A key one is, do they get one bath per week, or two?

The standard for each senior in a provincially funded home is 3.36 hours of care per day, a target Health Minister Adrian Dix has pledged to meet by 2021 by adding operating money and staff to provincial and contracted care homes.

Last year’s budget committed extra funds toward that goal, with $48.4 million in the current budget allocated to 183 facilities around the province for care aides, physiotherapists and other support staff. Dix has said that the key is to recruit 1,500 full-time equivalent people, 900 of them care aides, to fill the persistent service gap, after more than 800 care aides moved from part-time to full-time work.

After the release of the B.C. budget this week, the problem was highlighted by Mike Klassen, vice president of the B.C. Care Providers Association. He called the ministry’s three-year staff funding commitment “extremely generous,” and noted that Finance Minister Carole James’ new budget adds additional money for training.

RELATED: Only 15% of care homes met standard by 2018

RELATED: Still too many seniors in care, or at home on drugs

“We’re at full employment in B.C. right now, so what we’re seeing is a lot of care providers are really coming up short,” Klassen said. “So seniors are not getting the care they need because of those staffing shortages.”

B.C. Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie questions that conclusion. She said the latest budget confirms the health ministry’s three-year commitment to reach the care hours target, which was first made by the previous B.C. Liberal government.

Mackenzie’s office did some checking in an effort to verify the labour shortage. The Health Employers Association maintains a “difficult-to-fill vacancy report,” and she said care aides are not on the list. And a check of job ads also came up empty.

“The other thing that the industry doesn’t really want to talk about, but I think has to be talked about, is the wage differential,” Mackenzie said in an interview with Black Press. “If you’re going to say, ‘I can’t hire anybody but I’m going to pay $19 an hour,’ and down the street they’re paying $24 an hour and they are getting people, I think the solution to your problem is pretty obvious. Pay them 24 bucks an hour.”

The Seniors Advocate office has tested results with regular surveys of seniors at home, in assisted living and in residential care, a process Mackenzie intends to expand.

“We can say we’re funding a care facility for 3.36 hours, but we can’t verify that’s what they’re providing,” Mackenzie said. “We need a very robust monitoring mechanism in place to make sure that care operators who are receiving funds for care hours are using those to deliver those care hours.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Electric cars gaining popularity in Vernon

Dealership sells five in one day, EV car show coming to town

Okanagan-Shuswap weather: cloudy

Environment Canada is calling for a similar day tomorrow.

Vernon tattoo fundraiser draws record support

Lineup around the block for start and beginning of Five Fathoms Tattoo event for Children’s Hospital

Vernon nature centre fundraiser goes western

Allan Brook’s Nature Centre Wine and Wild West Fundraiser is on July 6

Rescuers finally persuade Eiffel Tower climber to come down

The official said the man was ‘under control and out of danger’ on Monday night

Family of B.C. pilot killed in Honduras trying to ‘piece together’ tragedy

Patrick Forseth has a number of friends in the area and was loved by everyone

Justin Trudeau credits immigration for Canada’s growing tech sector

Trudeau stressed that Canada has become a major source of talent for tech all over the world

Feds launch tourism strategy designed to boost sector 25 per cent by 2025

The fund is supposed to back experiences that show off Canada’s strengths

Sister of cancer victim cycles across Canada to raise awareness

Her journey started on May 14 and will end in early August

Column: A solar pioneer in the Okanagan rides among us

This Summerland octogenarian has been producing his own electrical energy for more than 20 years

Should B.C. already be implementing province-wide fire bans?

A petition is calling for B.C. Wildfire Service to issue a ban to reduce risk of human caused wildfires

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several days, but grew substantially Sunday

Woman in hospital after being thrown off horse

She was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital from Okanagan Falls

Most Read