Health Minister Adrian Dix listens while Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie speaks at an event, June 2018. (B.C. government)

Health Minister Adrian Dix listens while Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie speaks at an event, June 2018. (B.C. government)

B.C. Seniors Advocate questions labour shortage in care homes

Are there really no workers, or are care aide wages too low?

B.C.’s health care budget has the biggest numbers of any provincial government function, but for seniors in residential care, the most important numbers are the small ones.

A key one is, do they get one bath per week, or two?

The standard for each senior in a provincially funded home is 3.36 hours of care per day, a target Health Minister Adrian Dix has pledged to meet by 2021 by adding operating money and staff to provincial and contracted care homes.

Last year’s budget committed extra funds toward that goal, with $48.4 million in the current budget allocated to 183 facilities around the province for care aides, physiotherapists and other support staff. Dix has said that the key is to recruit 1,500 full-time equivalent people, 900 of them care aides, to fill the persistent service gap, after more than 800 care aides moved from part-time to full-time work.

After the release of the B.C. budget this week, the problem was highlighted by Mike Klassen, vice president of the B.C. Care Providers Association. He called the ministry’s three-year staff funding commitment “extremely generous,” and noted that Finance Minister Carole James’ new budget adds additional money for training.

RELATED: Only 15% of care homes met standard by 2018

RELATED: Still too many seniors in care, or at home on drugs

“We’re at full employment in B.C. right now, so what we’re seeing is a lot of care providers are really coming up short,” Klassen said. “So seniors are not getting the care they need because of those staffing shortages.”

B.C. Seniors’ Advocate Isobel Mackenzie questions that conclusion. She said the latest budget confirms the health ministry’s three-year commitment to reach the care hours target, which was first made by the previous B.C. Liberal government.

Mackenzie’s office did some checking in an effort to verify the labour shortage. The Health Employers Association maintains a “difficult-to-fill vacancy report,” and she said care aides are not on the list. And a check of job ads also came up empty.

“The other thing that the industry doesn’t really want to talk about, but I think has to be talked about, is the wage differential,” Mackenzie said in an interview with Black Press. “If you’re going to say, ‘I can’t hire anybody but I’m going to pay $19 an hour,’ and down the street they’re paying $24 an hour and they are getting people, I think the solution to your problem is pretty obvious. Pay them 24 bucks an hour.”

The Seniors Advocate office has tested results with regular surveys of seniors at home, in assisted living and in residential care, a process Mackenzie intends to expand.

“We can say we’re funding a care facility for 3.36 hours, but we can’t verify that’s what they’re providing,” Mackenzie said. “We need a very robust monitoring mechanism in place to make sure that care operators who are receiving funds for care hours are using those to deliver those care hours.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Capt. Bryun Ashlie, left, and Lieut. Stu Kenning, of Nanaimo Fire Rescue, tackle fires burning in two shopping carts in St. George Ravine Park, Thursday afternoon. The cause of the fire, which destroyed both carts and their contents, is undetermined. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Shopping carts found burning in Nanaimo park

Firefighters douse flaming carts and contents on asphalt pathway

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a motorcyclist who refused to stop for police near the Nanaimo River Road and White Rapids Road intersection on April 10. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP seek ‘stunting’ motorcyclist, who fled from police

Rider spotted near intersection of Nanaimo River Road and White Rapids Road April 10

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on the property

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map shows new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 11-17. (BCCDC image)
Nanaimo sees fewest new COVID-19 cases since mid January

B.C. Centre for Disease Control reports 31 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Nanaimo from April 11-17

Island Health has issued an overdose advisory for Nanaimo. (Black Press Media file photo)
Overdose advisory issued for Nanaimo

Island Health warns of ‘toxic drug supply’ in Nanaimo, Victoria, the Comox Valley and Campbell River

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

The conservation service confirmed they do not relocate cougars from settled areas but that euthanasia is not necessarily the fate for an animal in the Fanny Bay area. The hope is that the animal will move on to wild areas. (File photo)
Woman hopes cat-stalking Fanny Bay cougar can avoid euthanization

Conservation officers do not relocate the animals from Vancouver Island

Tofino residents expressed frustration over a recent post by Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett that falsely claimed all residents have been vaccinated. (Westerly file photo)
Resort owner apologizes for suggesting Tofino is safe to travel to

Long Beach Lodge owner Tim Hackett apologizes to community and visitors

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Police executed a search warrant at the Devils Army Clubhouse on Petersen road in Campbell River on August 10, 2017.
Murder trial: Victim left to conclude out-of-court settlement on the day he disappeared

Trial of Richard Alexander in death of John Dillon Brown continues in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria

Most Read