Times Colonist

Government given a D grade for its care of seniors

- CINDY E. HARNETT and ROB SHAW ceharnett@timescolon­ist.com rfshaw@timescolon­ist.com

The B.C. Health Coalition delivered a failing grade to the province Tuesday on its lack of progress to improve the quality of life for seniors in residentia­l care and access to informatio­n about the facilities.

A delegation from the coalition rallied on the steps of the legislatur­e and met B.C. Health Minister Mike de Jong to express its concern that recommenda­tions in a 2009 report on the state of seniors’ care, by B.C.’S Ombudspers­on, have not been acted upon.

“The voices of seniors in this province are saying enough is enough,” Katrine Conroy, NDP critic for Seniors and Long-term Care, said at the legislatur­e.

The biggest issue for Kathleen Kyle, whose 79year-old husband is in a Victoria residentia­l care facility, is access to informatio­n.

Kyle, who formerly worked in the Freedom of Informatio­n office for the provincial government, said she had an impossible time trying to access documents from Vancouver Island Health Authority on policies, procedures, guidelines and standards for residentia­l care homes.

Fuelling Kyle’s desire for more informatio­n is the fact her and her husband are paying more for his residentia­l care, since fees went up, and at the same time seeing fewer staff and services.

“Kathleen Kyle is relying on a freedom-of-informatio­n request to find rules about Vancouver Island seniors facilities — policies, procedures, standards or guide- lines,” Conroy told the government during Question Period. “Families filing freedom-of-informatio­n requests — is that what the minister means by a broader source of informatio­n?”

The coalition gave the province a D for its action on the Ombudspers­on’s recommenda­tion to ensure seniors and their families have access to the informatio­n they need to make informed decisions about residentia­l care.

Premier Christy Clark said she hadn’t yet heard the specific concerns of the health coalition members but believes her government needs to be sharing more informatio­n rather than less.

“In general, yeah we are absolutely committed to open government,” Clark told reporters.

De Jong told the House he had a good discussion with the coalition Tuesday.

“The objective for the government, the objective for me, is to ensure that residents, patients and their families have ready access to the broadest possible gambit of informatio­n so that they can make informed decisions about the homes and the facilities that their loved ones are living in,” he said.

Shannon Marshall, spokeswoma­n for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, said it has sent Kyle the informatio­n she requested and no formal request was needed.

Discussion is underway at VIHA to move such documents to its internet site once technical issues are worked out.

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