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Independent advocate re-affirms our union's call to bring seniors’ care back into government - BCGEU

This week B.C.'s independent Office of the Seniors Advocate (OSA) published the first ever provincial review of the $1.4 billion-dollar contracted long-term care sector in British Columbia, A Billion Reasons to Care.

Overall, the OSA confirms what our union 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.

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 two decades that followed, the sector shifted significantly towards the for-profit model due largely to legislation enacted by the BC Liberals. The previous government's legislation led to the deterioration of working conditions for health and social-sector workers by stripping workplace protections and rights and enabling contract-flipping which created a race to the bottom in terms of wages. Fortunately the BC NDP repealed these laws in late 2018, but the damage will take years to undo and leaves us where we are today – with staffing crises and care facilities under health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.

Among the report's specific findings:

  • 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 two-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 five recommendations to address the problems it identifies:

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

Our union commends the OSA for providing this critical and long-overdue insight into the contract long-term care system and supports all five 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 represents over 8,000 members in seniors care with 3,000 working in residential care facilities.

Read the report here: