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Promised seniors' beds not delivered: CCPA

Premier Gordon Campbell’s government has failed to deliver on its 2001 promise to provide 5,000 new residential care beds for seniors, according to a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Last fall, Health Services Minister George Abbott announced the government had exceeded its commitment with 5,322 net-new beds.

But only 3,589 were created between 2001 and 2008 -- a shortfall of the commitment by almost 1500 beds, according the CCPA report called “An Uncertain Future For Seniors.”

The discrepancy between the government’s announcement and the study findings resulted because of over-counting and inaccurate reporting by the ministry, said CCPA research associate Marcy Cohen, one of the authors of the study.

The CCPA obtained data using Freedom of Information requests filed with B.C.’s regional health authorities.

“The numbers we got from the health authorities were very different than the numbers that were being provided by the Ministry of Health,” said Cohen.

Besides falling short of the 5,000-bed commitment, she said the new beds created were all assisted living units, which do not provide the same level of service as residential care.

The report found there were actually 804 fewer residential care beds in 2008 than there were in 2001.

Seniors around the province are feeling the effects, said Cohen, and the situation will only get worse as the population continues to age.

“I think one of the most important impacts is that there are too many people still waiting in hospital, occupying hospital beds and going to emergency because there are inadequate services in the community,” she said.

The results of the study were not surprising, said Joyce Jones, community co-chair of the B.C. Health Coalition.

“The report bears out what we’ve all thought for many years was the actual truth,” she said.

The CCPA is calling for a full public consultation process on home and community care, the development of a comprehensive strategic plan, and an increase in the number of residential care beds.

The B.C. Health Coalition is also asking for an independent advocate to lobby on behalf of the seniors in the province, Joyce said.

“It’s time to deal with the issue -- whatever government comes in,” she said.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Hook.

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