Seniors Health and Housing Coalition members concerned after meeting Ministers

News release

Questions regarding implementation of Supportive Housing BC still unanswered

The provincial government continues to roll out changes to seniors’ health care and housing programs without adequately addressing serious concerns from professionals and the public say Seniors, Health and Housing Coalition members after meeting yesterday with Katherine Whittred, Minister of State for Intermediate, Long Term and Home Care and George Abbott, Minister of Community Aboriginal and Women’s Services, who has responsibility for housing.

The provincial government is implementing a new program called Supportive Living BC which will provide 3500 spaces of supportive housing and assisted living instead of the 5000 new long-term care beds that are needed in BC.

"We had some very specific questions about ensuring affordability, an equitable system for accessing supportive housing and assisted living, and consumer protection for residents," said Val McDonald of the Seniors Health Information Program. "We’ve been working on these issues for some time and know the vulnerabilities of frail seniors in the community. Unfortunately, we received only general answers."

The coalition urged the government to proceed with caution and make sure provincial regulations on assisted living are in place prior to full scale adoption of this new model for delivering residential care. They asked that government begin now to monitor potential inadequacies and to show the evidence which justifies these changes.

Community nurse Peggy Eburne told the Ministers that she was already receiving reports from colleagues concerned that the health care needs of some residents in assisted living were not being met. "The theory I’m hearing from government and health authority people is not the reality," she said. "We’ve got to make sure the safe-guards are in place so that the health needs of these residents can be safely met in assisted living units. Otherwise they shouldn’t be placed in them."

Housing advocates also called for assurances that the need for subsidized housing for people other than the frail elderly would not be overlooked. Minister Abbott replied that it was a matter of allocation of scarce resources. "We have to ensure that the groups we address most aggressively are the most vulnerable," he said.

Members of the Coalition were anticipating meeting Health Ministers Hansen and Hawkins as well, but only Whittred, Abbott and senior health and housing ministry officials arrived for the meeting.

"We’ve given them the opportunity to provide detailed answers to our questions over the next few weeks," said Phil Lyons of the Seniors Network of BC, "so we hope more concrete information will be forthcoming. Minister Abbott said to keep banging away at them, raising these concerns, so we’ll definitely be doing that."

For more information, please contact: Phil Lyons, Seniors Network of BC at 604-430-6373 or in the evening at 604-929-1921 Val MacDonald, Seniors Health Information Program at 604-520-6621 on behalf of the Seniors, Health and Housing Coalition