By Lola Augustine Brown
Better access to home and community care reduces the load on hospitals, so you’d think access would be improving as the population gets older. Not in British Columbia, where access to care has in fact been declining steadily for the past 16 years, according a new report by the BC Office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA–BC), an independent research institute. And the report has obvious implications for seniors across Canada.
BC seniors have less access to assisted-living and residential care today than they did in 2001, the report states. Between 2001 and 2016, the number of available beds declined by 20% relative to an increase in the number of seniors 75 and over—a population that grew by 49%, the report points out. Access to home care dropped 30%.
The report details how lack of funding for in-home care has led to fewer visits to seniors from nursing or rehabilitation professionals, though more seniors are receiving home care than 16 years ago.
The report blames decreased provincial support—over 16 years, British Columbia fell from second among the 10 provinces in health care spending to eighth—and increased privatization. Between 2001 and 2016, the report says, the number of beds in residential care facilities operated by provincial or non-profit bodies dropped 11% while beds in for-profit facilities increased 42%.
The report observes that lack of access to care affects not only individual seniors but whole families—“especially women, who often work full-time and care for children and aging relatives.”