Seniors care and staffing levels below provincial guidelines

Source: Nanaimo News Now, byline: Spencer Sterritt

Seniors in B.C. residential care homes aren’t getting the attention they deserve, according to a new report.

British Columbia’s seniors advocate recently released their 2017 directory of facilities, which showed only nine per cent of care homes in the province reach 3.36 hours of daily care per patient. The number is a provincial guideline, though it’s not legislatively required.

The B.C. Care Providers Association, in their own report, advocated for nearly $340 million to boost employment and the number of hours a patient receives care from an aide.

Local seniors advocate Kim Slater said directly helping patients 3.36 hours a day isn’t unreasonable, though it shouldn’t be the ideal.

“It’s sort of a bare minimum they should be aiming for,” he said. “It’s very necessary now because the need of the average resident in care has gone up so much because of the type of people they’re putting in there now.”

According to Slater, the average lifespan of someone in residential care has dropped from five years to two, as many without serious ailments or medical issues are re-directed to assisted living instead of a more intensive residential care home.

This leads to more strain and responsibilities for care aides, he said, because more patients have serious mobility or mental issues which require more care.

He said it’s critical the government take action now.

“I think the Ministry of Health has to bite the bullet and do what communities need and fund seniors care homes more adequately,” he said. “The problem is only going to get worse. If they don’t plan for the future, then we’re going to have a real crisis on our hands.”

Residential care on Vancouver Island

Tim Orr, director of residential services with the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), said they’ve made progress towards achieving 3.36 hours of direct care with their patients and while they aren’t there yet, they compare relatively well with other health authorities in the province.

“We would all like to be able to do more if we could,” he said.

Orr said the 19 residential care facilities the VIHA operates currently average 3.15 hours of direct care.

Their Cormorant Island Health Centre, according to the Senior’s Advocate directory, exceeds provincial guidelines at 3.79 hours.

Orr said this is because it’s a much smaller care centre. “It’s completely realistic to say their hours per resident are going to be higher if you’re only dividing your staff by a very small number of beds.”

On the low end, the directory lists the Yucalta Lodge at 2.98 hours of direct care.

When asked about the facility, Orr said he was surprised to see the number and referred to a quarterly report for the health authority which lists it at being at 3.35 hours.

“It hasn’t been that low in some time,” he said, before promising to look into the discrepancy.

Overall, he said reaching and exceeding the recommended hours of daily care is a challenge everywhere and they’ll add resources as they become available, such as more staff or extraordinary funding for specific situations.