As Raging Grannies protest, premier again rules out inquiry into seniors homes

Premier John Horgan said problems in B.C.’s seniors care homes illuminated by the coronavirus pandemic should be reviewed, but on Thursday he again rejected the need for a public inquiry.

“I don't know if that’s the right way forward, quite frankly,” Horgan said at the B.C. legislature. “We absolutely want to hear from families who have loved ones in care facilities and we want to see where we are and where we need to go.”

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After reports that staffing shortages at Lynn Valley Care Home in North Vancouver left neglected seniors malnourished, dehydrated and sitting in soiled diapers, Horgan said reviews of long-term care are in order. But he added: “I believe we can do that through dialogue with public-health officials, with the operators, with the various health authorities across the province, and, most importantly, we need to hear from families, and I don’t believe you need a public inquiry to do that.”

Quebec’s chief coroner has ordered a comprehensive public inquiry into deaths in that province’s long-term care homes, private seniors homes and other residential facilities for vulnerable people during the first six weeks of the pandemic.

Three seniors care homes on Vancouver Island are being overseen by an administrator appointed by Island Health.

On Thursday, Victoria Raging Grannies demonstrated at the Health Ministry offices on Blanshard Street drawing attention to what they said is the “sad state of senior care homes.”

The pandemic has made it apparent that institutional safety, comfort and care for seniors is in crisis, the Grannies said.

“Although there are many excellent residences, we have all read stories of care homes where overworked and underpaid workers simply did not show up, residents were left to fend for themselves and people who had died were left in their beds, while families were unaware of the situations and could not visit their loved ones due to quarantine regulations,” the Grannies said in a statement.

Horgan said without trying to erase what some families have seen in long-term care, “I’m very confident that we’ve gone well past that and we’re in a position — unlike any other province in the country — where we can be quite proud of the work that we’ve done, and acknowledge that we have much more work to do.”

Most of B.C.’s 186 deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in long-term care facilities. “We have learned from those experiences,” said Horgan.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix also favours the review option. He and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged the pandemic has exposed challenges in long-term care facilities.

Dix said the standard for care per resident in B.C. seniors care facilities is 3.36 care hours per resident day and 75 care homes had been below that. “Now there are none,” he said.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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