Access to care for B.C. seniors shrinking as their numbers grow
Elaine O'Connor, The Province
B.C. seniors’ access to home and community care has declined drastically in the past decade and must be improved or seniors will overwhelm our hospital system, warns a new Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report.
The study, Caring for B.C.’s Aging Population: Improving Health Care for All, released Wednesday, ties deficits in seniors’ home and community health care to chronic, expensive hospital overcrowding and long wait lists.
“A decade of underfunding and restructuring has led to a home and community care system that is fragmented, confusing to navigate, and unable to meet seniors’ needs,” the report states.
“Seniors often have to wait until they are in crisis and are admitted to hospital before they can access residential care services,” and “hospitals are increasingly the route through which seniors gain access to both residential and home health services” — an expensive, inefficient route.
Across B.C., as the number of seniors over 75 increased 28 per cent from 2001 to 2010, their access to residential care dropped 21 per cent and access to home support fell 30 per cent, with steep declines regionally, notably in Vancouver Coastal and Northern Health, the report says.
That’s due in part to slower funding growth — B.C.’s per-capita health spending has fallen to the second-lowest among provinces in 2011 from second-highest in 2001 — and also tighter eligibility criteria. (These reductions have been offset by a 14-per-cent increase in availability of community rehabilitation, while access to home nursing fell minimally by three per cent.)
Overall, access to home and community care in the province has fallen 14 per cent over the past decade, according to the report, which calculated its figures by comparing the volume of services to the number of seniors over 75.