B.C. remains without an advocate to protect seniors from abuse or help them navigate the health and residential-care systems, as the provincial government said it would do a year ago.
Following a scathing report on seniors’ care by B.C. Ombudsperson Kim Carter, released on Feb. 14, 2012, after a three-year investigation, the province said it would create a seniors’ advocate.
The process was expected to take about six months, but despite public consultations in 10 communities throughout B.C. between May and the end of July, a seniors advocate has yet to be put in place.
Ralph Sultan, minister of state for seniors, has said legislation will be introduced in the spring session to create the position.
The spring legislative session begins today and runs until mid-March.
Carter’s report made 176 recommendations for improvements to home and community care, home support, assisted living and residential care.
An update released in late December indicated the Ministry of Health has fully or partially implemented about 25 per cent of the 141 recommendations made directly to the ministry.
NDP seniors’ critic Katrine Conroy said many of the recommendations in Carter’s report concern regulatory changes or streamlining and better ways of collecting and distributing data and information to seniors and their families that would be of minimal cost to government.
The day the report was released last year, the NDP, which has called for a seniors’ advocate since 2007, said the position could be created immediately.
“If [the Liberals] really believe in the position and wanted to implement it ... for seniors in this province, they would have brought in legislation and it would have been dealt with,” Conroy said last week.
The government claims it has implemented several changes since the report, including creating a new risk-assessment tool for staff to protect residents in facilities; providing after-hours palliative tele-nursing support to caregivers; implementing a seniors’ health-care support line; establishing new clinical guidelines for frail seniors in emergency wards and hospitals; and adding more content to the Home and Community Care website.
“The report has been taken very seriously and many of her recommendations have been incorporated into government strategies and plans and are being implemented as we speak,” said Sultan in a recent interview.
“You don’t run a $18-billion health system on the basis of 276, or whatever it is, recommendations. The world is more complicated than that. The gist of her findings have been taken into account and the government is implementing the program. So that’s the reality.”
Progress is assessed for a period of five years, Carter said.
Carter said a number of the recommendations in the report focus on providing useful information to seniors and their families to help them navigate the residential-care system, and some progress has been made in that area.
But she says more could have been done by the government.
Areas that have not been addressed include providing legal protection for those who complain in good faith about home- and community-care services, the ombudsperson said.
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