Visiting health and housekeeping care is vital to letting seniors stay in their own homes, and the provincial health authorities in southern B.C. are moving to in-house staff after a series of audits of contracted agencies conducted in the past year.
B.C. health ministers have long advocated for increased home care to keep seniors out of assisted living and nursing homes. A recent survey by the B.C. Seniors Advocate office found delivery of home care and day activity programs declined in 2018, despite an increase in the general and senior populations.
Health authorities say integrating home care into their staffing system will help with the B.C. health ministry’s emphasis on team-based community care. They are working on a “seamless transition” that will see unionized staff shift from contractors to direct employment by each health authority.
Home support workers assist with bathing, dressing, grooming and other daily living activities, often providing relief for a primary caregiver, usually a spouse or family member.
The B.C. Care Providers Association, representing contractors, said the move will drive up costs and complicate a staff shortage that has been a chronic problem for senior care homes and home care operators.
“What we’ve heard from seniors is that they want more services and longer visit times, and today’s B.C. government decision does nothing to address this,” said Daniel Fontaine, CEO of the association. “These changes only serve to drive up the cost of the support, and complicate the staffing shortage crisis the sector is facing without addressing the needs of B.C. seniors.”
Service contracts with non-profit and for-profit home care contractors are expiring in 2020, and the health authorities will move to direct employment of the workers for most of the service. In Fraser Health, the largest health region by population, 37 per cent of home care service is provided by in-house staff, and that is expected to move to 90 per cent within a year.
“Living a healthy, independent life at home is important to people in our region who access home support services, which is why we are working with government to improve the way we deliver this care,” said Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health.