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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Speedboat reportedly sinking near Manhattan Point in Kelowna

This is the third report of a boat found in the lake in the past two weeks

Kelowna General Hospital takes steps to prevent spread of coronavirus

So far, at least six people have died and 275 people have contracted the virus worldwide

Plans submitted for third hotel across from Kelowna International Airport

YLW passengers in need of accommodations could be getting another option

Vehicle fire occurred outside of fire departments’ coverage areas

Neither Summerland nor Peachland detachments attended incident at Okanagan Lake Provincial Park

Okanagan among Canada’s most at-risk habitats: WWF report

Report found the Okanagan is inadequately protected despite being a hotspot for at-risk species

UBCO students raise funds for those affected by Philippine volcano eruption

All proceeds will be donated to the Philippine Red Cross

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Future space homes could be made of mushrooms

NASA explores use of fungi to build structures in space

COLUMN: Pre-clearance changes at Canadian airports

Some believe these expanded powers may be contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

UPDATE: Revelstoke City Council gives themselves a raise, councillor resigns in protest

The mayor’s pay is set to go from $30,000 to $60,000 over three years

Pumphouse project puts North Okanagan taps back on Kal

The capital project at the Kal Lake Pump House to make it flood-resistant is near completion

Most Read