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BC Seniors Advocate calls on provincial government to pay home support costs for elderly residents

Northern Health has the highest hourly rate among all the health authorities for home support services in BC.

The rate per hour in our region is $50 – well above the provincial average of $38.67 – that’s according to the We Must Do Better report issued by the office of the BC Seniors Advocate.

Isobel Mackenzie told Vista Radio geography and distance between communities do play a factor in the rate.

“Home support will cost more to deliver in Northern Health than it might in the west end of Vancouver because you have to pay the transportation costs of the worker to go from client to client and those distances are further in Northern Health than they are in the west end of Vancouver so it will cost more.”

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Mackenzie added while northern seniors are digging more into their wallets to receive home support, some improvements can still be made.

“I think the service can be improved in Northern Health as more people could be getting it and the people who are getting it could be receiving more of it. But, there is always going to be the challenge of the more remote and rural people receiving any kind of service where you are driving to the house to deliver it each time.”

Mackenzie is calling on the province to buck up and pay home support costs for seniors, similar to what is already done in Alberta and Ontario.

Mackenzie says a senior with an income 29 grand a year has to pay $9000 annually for a daily one-hour visit – that accounts for over 30% of their income.

That can range from personal services, such as bathing, to more complex tasks such as management of medications.

“Surprisingly for some is that BC’s low-care needs population in long-term care is 34% higher than the national average and it’s double what it is in Alberta and Ontario where they don’t charge for their home support.”

“Sometimes family members provide care until they are exhausted and then they take their loved one to long-term care and when we look at our admissions to long-term care – 61% of people that are admitted had no home support 90 days prior to their admission,” added Mackenzie.

“Clearly, this link between what we are charging for home support, the fact that people cannot afford it so they are not getting it and they are moving into long-term care prematurely is sort of the bread crumbs if you will are pretty clear and compelling that we have to deal with this cost-barrier.”

According to the report the Ministry of Health provides funding for health
authorities to deliver home and community care services (HCC) including home support.

Last year, the health authorities spent a total of $4.81 billion on HCC services, of which 14% ($693 million) was on home support services.

The largest home care expenditure is long-term care which consumes 60% of the total
expenditure ($2.87 billion).

In the past five years, the overall expenditures in HCC increased by 50% with the
amount spent on home support increasing 42%.

Last year, Fraser and Vancouver Island health authorities each had the largest share of total home support expenditures (30%), followed by Vancouver Coastal (22%), Interior Health (14%), and Northern Health (4%).

When asked how the percentage discrepancy in the north may impact the quality of care services, Mackenzie stated it reflects the challenge around home support along with other health services within Northern Health.

“The federal government is going to start asking why we are charging so much for a service that they are giving us money to provide. I think the province is going to have to come to terms with that. But, even when you remove that cost barrier you’ve still got the issue of people who live in more remote areas or areas without a concentrated population it’s more difficult.”

“This is one on one service and it is more difficult to deliver. You have to get the staff and it’s more difficult to get staff in Northern Health, there are fewer people, and in some cases like in places like Fort Saint John you competing against those with high-paying jobs in the oil and gas sector.”

In the past five years, all health authorities have increased spending on home
support services ranging from 23% in Interior Health to 55% in Vancouver Island Health.

Furthermore, 82% of home support clients in Northern Health in 2021-22 received less than one hour of care per eligible day – that’s a 12 point spike when compared to 2017-18 where the rate was 70%.

“That’s not a good thing because the people they are caring for are more likely to need daily service today than they needed five years ago. And then service days tell us on the day they received service and how many hours of care they received. We find a high proportion are getting under an hour or just an hour of service a day on the day they receive service but they are not getting service every day.”

Here is a provincial breakdown of the estimated home support client fee for a single senior with a base salary of $29,000 a year:

  • British Columbia – $8,952
  • New Brunswick – $5,917
  • Newfoundland and Labrador – $4,906
  • Saskatchewan – $3,490
  • Nova Scotia $1,494

Alberta, Ontario, Yukon. Northwest Territories and Manitoba pay home support costs for seniors.

To view the full report, click here.

 

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