Caring for British Columbia’s seniors is a major priority of this government, and an issue that all British Columbian families take seriously.
In response to the recent Free Press column by Paul Wilcocks, there are some important facts that readers should consider when reviewing our government’s record in the provision of seniors’ housing.
Since June 2001, this government has developed and upgraded over 4,000 new and replacement beds providing care services, plus an additional 823 units without direct care services for those who need affordable housing.
During the same time, the private sector has contributed an additional 5,000 units.
As part of this process, spending for this care has increased by $25 million annually and will increase by a further $75 million. When we took office there was a one-year average wait time for a seniors’ care facility in British Columbia – today the wait time is about 90 days in the north region.
The challenge we faced when we took office was the widespread need to replace an inventory that was old and in disrepair due to decades of neglect – with an average facility age of 30 years.
As some of your readers may know from visiting elderly relatives in care facilities, many of these facilities were crowded with two or four people to a room, some with non – wheelchair accessible washrooms and not built to modern building codes.
The need to replace units has resulted in delay delivering on our 5,000 bed commitment.
But right now we have work underway for the construction of an additional 1,300 units across the province, and we will be more than half way to our commitment by 2006.
This means we will have created twice as many new beds than during the entire NDP era – and we will have done it twice as fast.
We will fully meet our 5,000 bed commitment in 2008.
Readers can view some of the positive changes occurring in the Prince George area by looking at facilities like the new geriatric day hospital at Prince George Regional Hospital – giving seniors access to geriatric specialists, therapeutic activities and rehabilitation services. Laurier Manor is another example, offering seniors 32 affordable, independent living units with support, a first for this community.
Northern Health has a comprehensive plan to increase care services over time, including investing an additional $1.8 million this year to increase home support hours by six per cent and home care nursing hours by 15 per cent across the north.
With our fiscal house in order and an additional $1.4 billion coming to health care in the coming years, our plan to expand and improve seniors’ care will serve all British Columbians well now and well into the future.
Health Services Minister and Deputy Premier