MLA Report: March 2012

British Columbia’s senior citizens are not getting the care, support or respect they deserve. A 400-page report released last month by the province’s ombudsperson Kim Carter is a scathing indictment of the government’s record on seniors’ care.

In short, it says the government has failed in many ways to help seniors get the care and treatment they need. Ms. Carter’s comprehensive report has 143 findings and makes 176 specific recommendations to fix the problems created by the government and address the neglect and abuse of seniors.

Ms. Carter’s report notes that there are no standards in key areas of residential care, including call response time and day-to-day activities like bathing and dental care. She points out that the government does not require service providers to notify police of incidents of neglect or abuse when a crime might be committed. It’s particularly astonishing that the government has no measurable standards for staffing levels.

This isn’t the first time Ms. Carter has raised the alarm; in 2009, she recommended that government provide a one-stop source for information about care homes. But that has not happened. Instead, we continue to hear distressing stories about poor treatment and neglect of seniors at residential facilities.

Five years ago, I raised concerns about the care seniors were receiving at a residential care facility in our community. I heard from families about seniors who had gone two weeks without proper bathing or showers, been left in urine-soaked clothing and left abandoned in wheelchairs in darkened rooms until well after midnight.

We learned then that the government had failed to act adequately to address the problems, and five years later, we hear the same concerns raised again.

In response to the Ombudsperson’s report, the Health Minister announced three more reviews and said an advocate for seniors would be appointed, but that won’t happen until later in the year – at the earliest. Time and time again, this government has refused to move on this issue.

If government members are truly committed to action, they can pass the bill that the Opposition introduced last fall proposing an independent Representative for Seniors. The bill is still languishing on the order papers. It could be brought back into the House for discussion, and passed quickly.

I’m appalled that the government has known about the bulk of this report for five months, and all it has come up with are more reviews and talk about action down the road. The health needs of B.C. seniors must be a priority, and that’s why I believe an independent officer must be put in place, much in the same way we have a Representative for Children and Youth.

You may recall it took a lot of pushing by the Opposition to get the government to take action to appoint Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to the position of Representative for Children and Youth, and we’ll continue to push them to do the same for seniors. The health needs of BC seniors must be a priority, and that’s why I believe an independent officer must be put in place, and why I was proud to table legislation for an independent seniors advocate in 2007.