Independent advocate reaffirms call to bring seniors’ care back into government: BCGEU

BCGEU/NUPGE sees the report as supporting their call to restore seniors' care in B.C. by putting people before profits and bringing the sector back under government as a public service.

Vancouver (6 Feb. 2020) ― British Columbia's independent Office of the Seniors Advocate (OSA) published the first ever provincial review of the $1.4 billion contracted long-term care sector in British Columbia, entitled A Billion Reasons to Care (https://www.seniorsadvocatebc.ca/app/uploads/sites/4/2020/02/ABillionRea...).

Overall, the OSA confirms what the BC Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) has been saying for years: the contracted long-term care sector lacks accountability and transparency in funding and monitoring and fails to meet the needs of seniors and their families.

Govt. shifted to increase use of for-profit companies in long-term care

In the report, the OSA also outlines how the system got to its current state. Prior to 1999 only 23 per cent of beds in long-term care were operated by for-profit companies. The rest were operated by non-profit societies and health authorities. In the 2 decades that followed, the sector shifted significantly towards the for-profit model due largely to legislation enacted by the BC Liberals.

The Liberal government's legislation led to the deterioration of working conditions for workers in the health and social-sector by stripping workplace protections and rights and enabling contract flipping, which created a race to the bottom in terms of wages. Fortunately the BC New Democratic Party repealed these laws in late 2018, but the damage will take years to undo and leaves us where we are today: with staffing crises and care facilities under health authority administration as we have seen in Comox, Nanaimo and Victoria.

Important findings and series of recommendations

Among the report's specific findings were 2 key points:

  • For-profit operations generate millions in profits but fall short on the number of direct care hours they are funded to deliver ― to the tune of 207,000 hours over a 2-year period.
  • Staff in the for-profit system are underpaid by as much as 28 per cent, or $6.63 less per hour, than the industry standard. 

The OSA makes 5 recommendations to address the problems it identifies:

  • Funding for direct care must be spent on direct care.
  • Monitoring for compliance with funded care hours must be more accurate.
  • Contract agencies must clearly define their profit in their reporting.
  • Standardize reporting for all care homes throughout B.C.
  • Revenues and expenditures for publicly funded care homes should be available to the public.

Now is the time to restore senior's care in the province

The BCGEU/NUPGE commends the OSA for providing this critical and long-overdue insight into the contract long-term care system and supports all 5 recommendations. However, while these measures would certainly bring improvement to a sector so lacking in regulation, we believe our province must go further to remove the profit motive from seniors' care altogether.

It's time to restore seniors' care in B.C. by putting people before profits and bringing the sector back under government as a public service. Only then will we have a long-term solution that supports our dedicated workforce with good wages and benefits to deliver the standard of care B.C.'s seniors deserve.

The BCGEU/NUPGE represents over 8,000 members in seniors' care, with 3,000 working in residential care facilities.