B.C’s Ombudsperson says the provincial government is moving in the right direction when it comes to addressing seniors’ issues, but it still has a long way to go.
Kim Carter, speaking to the Okanagan Chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons in Kelowna Tuesday said her two-volume report, Best of Care, issued last year contained 143 findings and 176 recommendations.
“As an optimist, I can tell you the glass is about one-quarter full,” she said pointing to the fact Victoria has implemented about 25 per cent of the report’s recommendations. Many concerned provision for assisted living provided by health authorities.
While her report was categorized by some as “scathing,” Carter said such descriptions are for others to make.
“Our focus was to look at the issues (and report),” she said.
One of the biggest moves made by the government as a result of Carter’s report was the announcement that B.C. will get its first seniors’ advocate.
Originally proposed by the Opposition NDP, the government introduced legislation creating the position on the last day of the last session of the legislature before May’s provincial election.
Carter said while the legislation was passed, there are still several unknowns about the position, such as the resources it will have allocated to it and it’s actual powers. They will be covered by regulation that the government has yet to release those regulations.
“A number of issues in the proposal are still unclear,” she said, declining to say if she was happy with the government’s move given the lack of information at this point.
Unlike her position, and that of the children and families advocate, the new seniors’ advocate will be appointed by the government not the B.C. Legislature, said Carter. So the new advocate will report to the health minister instead of the legislature.
One of the main issues Carter’s office addressed in its senior’s care report was that of home and community care and the need for better regulation.
She said in some cases care is not regulated and as such, her office has no jurisdiction in those instances to look at complaints that are received. In other cases, however, such as where care provided by regional health authorities, the Ombudsperson’s office can, and does, investigate.
But Carter said limitations in staff and resources means her office has to weigh requests for investigations and cannot respond to all in as timely a manner as she would like.
Carter did say she has been successful this year in getting an additional $250,000 added to her office’s budget.
Carter said when it comes to requests for investigations concerning seniors’ issues, her office is most often asked about pharmacare, the medical services plan, assisted living, hospital and healthcare issues, driving issues and public guardianship issues.
She said while her aim is to solve problems or help the two parties involved work out a solution, her office can and does also look at larger systemic issues, such as the overall state of seniors care in B.C.
But with limited resources, she said she can only look at one to two larger issues each year.
B.C. has had am ombudsperson (formerly known as the ombudsman) since 1979 and the office receives 8,000 inquiries and complaints per year. It investigates about 2,000 per year. In many cases, the complaints her office receives are in areas where she has no jurisdiction.
The B.C. ombusperson can investigate hundreds of provincial public bodies boards and Crown corporations, as well as departments of the provincial government, universities and colleges and professional bodies.
Carter, a former military lawyer and judge, was appointed B.C. Ombudsperson in 2006.