Survey shows seniors’ services aren’t accessible

June Ross, a seniors' advocate in Nanaimo, is vexed at a seniors survey released this month.

June Ross, a seniors’ advocate in Nanaimo, is vexed at a seniors’ survey released this month.

The B.C. Seniors Survey Bridging the Gaps was compiled by the B.C. Office of the Seniors Advocate, HealthLink B.C. and B.C. Stats. It queried 500 seniors from all of the province’s health authorities late last year and revealed a number of respondents were unaware of key supports in place, something that Ross said is old news.

“To be honest, I’m really frustrated,” Ross said. “The ombudsman said the same damn thing four years ago and the government has implemented 24 of 174 recommendations, so I don’t know why we’re hearing it all over again.”

Amongst the findings, only 39 per cent surveyed were aware of Medical Services Plan premium assistance, which offers support with medical costs to those on low incomes who qualify. While seniors living on $22,000 or less annually stood to save $864 a year, 60 per cent of respondents – living on $30,000 a year or less – said they weren’t aware of the program.

Ross said Isobel Mackenzie, B.C. Seniors Advocate, is “dead on” with the assessment: not many seniors know about the plan.

“The problem that I’ve had when I’ve done advocacy with MSP is that, she’s saying it’s $22,000. When I was doing advocacy, it was a hell of a lot lower than that and people just don’t have the funds to pay. If they have to turn around and pay $55 or $60 a month, they don’t have it,” said Ross.

In her opinion, nobody in B.C. should be charged for the Medical Services Plan and says it should be covered through taxes.

Communities along the coast should have an advocate in place, whether volunteer or paid, Ross said.

“There should be somebody saying, ‘OK, here are the things you’re eligible for. Did you know about them?’ Even if they did something once a month. There are ways to make contact…

“It needs to be verbal, it needs to be advised, it needs to be told to people,” Ross said.

reporter@nanaimobulletin.com