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British Columbia announces four-year, $500-million seniors-care plan

Isobel Mackenzie, the province’s senior’s advocate, said the plan amounts to 7,000 extra care hours daily or three million more hours annually.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

Seniors in British Columbia residential care facilities can expect more baths, walks and bathroom breaks as a result of a $500-million government care plan, Isobel Mackenzie, the province's senior's advocate, said Thursday.

Health Minister Terry Lake said the government will spend $500-million over the next four years to improve care for seniors, setting a target to average 3.36 direct-care hours daily to seniors in public and private residential care facilities.

Ms. Mackenzie said her office, which monitors and analyses seniors' services and issues in B.C., has already done the math and is pleased with the result.

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"It could mean that I could go to the bathroom within 15 minutes of asking instead of 45," she said. "It might mean I can ask for a bath on Tuesday and get one even though I just had one on Saturday. It might mean I can get the aide to walk me to the dining room using my walker rather than putting me in the wheelchair because that's the faster way of getting me there."

Mackenzie said the plan amounts to 7,000 extra care hours daily or three million more hours annually.

Lake said the government intends to roll out the plan over four years, with $45-million projected for the 2017-2018 budget year, followed by investments of $125-million, $150-million and $185-million.

"We can't do that overnight because we need the bodies to be able to do that," he said. "So, to help meet the increasing care hours we'll work with industry and health authorities to hire about 1,500 additional staff over the next four years. That includes health-care assistants, nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists."

Judy Darcy, the Opposition New Democrat health critic, said the Liberal government plan to help seniors comes barely two months before the start of an election campaign and after 16 years of neglecting the elderly.

She said the NDP will keep watch to ensure seniors are receiving increased care services.

Jennifer Whiteside, secretary-business manager of the 46,000-member Hospital Employees' Union, said the union welcomes the government's plan but also called for strong measures to monitor care home operators to account for the funds they receive.

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Daniel Fontaine, executive officer for the B.C. Care Providers Association, called the funding a pivotal moment for seniors and their families.

The association represents the majority of non-government providers of community care for seniors in B.C., with more than 300 residential care, assisted living, home support and commercial members.

B.C. has more than 32,000 seniors care beds at residential and assisted-living facilities.

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