Ombudsman asked to investigate “alarmingly high” mortality rates at residential care facilities

News release

BC Seniors Network and BC Health Coalition News Release

Seniors, health advocates launch toll-free hotline to document seniors’ care issues — 1-877-600-1180

Seniors’ groups and health advocates are asking the B.C. Ombudsman to investigate whether the frail elderly are at risk from a provincial government policy of nursing home closures.

The call comes days after the Interior Health Authority said that the annual mortality rate for residents in Okanagan care facilities is 47 per cent.

“These are alarmingly high numbers that warrant investigation by an independent officer of the legislature,” says Seniors Network BC co-chairperson Joyce Jones. “Are these mortality rates due to increased stress on the frail elderly who are moved from closed facilities?

“Or does the lack of residential care beds and reduced home support hours mean that residents are admitted in worse shape than ever before?”

B.C. Health Coalition co-ordinator Terrie Hendrickson says it’s in the public interest to get to the bottom of the numbers.

“On the one hand, our minister of long-term care says a third of seniors in care facilities could live at home with proper supports,” says Hendrickson. “But according to the IHA, one out of two seniors in care will die within a year. These contradictory numbers suggest that the province isn’t clear about the impact of its policies on B.C. seniors.”

In May, the provincial Ombudsman, Howard Kushner, committed his office to investigating residential care complaints.

The B.C. Health Coalition and the Seniors Network BC are also launching a toll-free hotline in an attempt to document problems that seniors are having in gaining access to home care and long-term care.

“There’s a lot of seniors who are falling through the cracks of our health care system,” says Jones. “We want to hear from these seniors and their families so that we can tell their stories.”

“I recently heard of a war vet who died within a week of being involuntarily moved as a result of the closure of Cooper Place,” adds Jones. “And I expect this is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The Just Say No Seniors’ Hotline can be reached toll-free throughout B.C. at 1-877-600-1180.

-30- Contact: Joyce Jones, Seniors Network BC, 604-987-0168 or Terrie Hendrickson, B.C. Health Coalition, 604-681-7945