Originally published in Vancouver Sun.
As Canadians ages 65 and over rise as a percentage of our country’s overall population, many are beginning to ask if the care we depend upon today will always be there for us. The authors of a recent study on residential care take that one step further by questioning whether the public sector alone should provide the care we need.
By looking at continuing care in other jurisdictions such as the United States, the study’s authors conclude — mistakenly, in our view — that private providers cannot uphold standards set by their public sector counterparts because they are profit-oriented.
Upon closer inspection, however, comparing seniors care in British Columbia to that in the U.S. and elsewhere is a proverbial case of apples and oranges.
In B.C., the Ministry of Health ensures the rules, regulations and a level of accountability apply to all care providers, regardless if they are government-owned or operate within the private sector. Furthermore, most seniors here receive access to care through a single payer system, funded by the provincial government and managed by the regional health authorities.
The private sector has long played a crucial and important role in the delivery of seniors care in B.C. In fact, about 70 per cent of long-term residential care for seniors in British Columbia is delivered by non-government care providers. Removing these private providers out of our mix of care options is not only impractical, it would be costly and counterproductive.
Rather than pushing out private operators, the responsible position would be to embrace and encourage the types of innovation they have introduced into the system while upholding high standards for quality care.
When B.C.’s continuing care sector was put through an intensive review in 2012 by the Office of the Ombudsperson, a report with 176 recommendations was issued. Not one of the recommendations suggested that we end private care in our province.
The report did, however, point out that private providers were able to offer quality care while making more efficient use of limited health dollars.
There are those who have the impression that public and private operators are funded equally, and that private providers willingly deliver fewer care hours to increase their profits.
In reality, the number of daily care hours provided to seniors is mandated and closely monitored through a contractual agreement between the care provider and the health authority.
According to a recent report released by the Office of the Seniors Advocate, it was noted that private care providers receive less funding to deliver direct care hours per senior than their public counterparts. The B.C. Care Providers Association (BCCPA) is working to address this issue by advocating that all care homes receive the funding required to provide seniors with a minimum of 3.36 direct care hours per day.
Next year, BCCPA will celebrate its 40th anniversary as a leading voice for seniors care in our province. As we celebrate this milestone, our approach is not to conduct business as usual. Rather, we are driving the conversation on how to improve care for everyone.
In September, we hosted the B.C. Continuing Care Collaborative in partnership with B.C.’s Ministry of Health, which assembled more than 150 people in the seniors care sector, including representatives from all health authorities, the B.C. government, labour, seniors and their family members, plus care providers to turn words into actions for our seniors.
Additionally, we began a speaker series dubbed Care to Chat, now entering its fourth season. On Nov. 17, our program will feature an expert panel on mental health in the workplace, and on how to improve the lives of people in care and those who care for them.
The BCCPA is also proud to have launched a working group devoted to raising the quality of care throughout the whole sector.
Our province can boast of some of Canada’s best long-term care because of the contribution by private providers. To suggest otherwise ignores the reality of seniors care in B.C. today.
Mike Klassen is vice-president, communications and stakeholder relations for the B.C. Care Providers Association (bccare.ca)