British Columbia

Province announces 495 long-term care beds for seniors in Interior Health Region

The B.C. government plans to add 495 new long-term care beds for seniors to the Interior Health Region — a one-time increase the government says is the region’s largest in over 15 years.

Beds will bring region's total number of publicly funded long-term care beds to 6,550, province says

Health Minister Adrian Dix, left, announced the new beds Monday morning. He was joined by Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness Michelle Mungall, the MLA for Nelson-Creston. Nelson is set to receive 75 of the new beds. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The B.C. government plans to add 495 new long-term care beds for seniors to the Interior Health Region — a one-time increase it calls the region's largest in over 15 years.

The 495 beds will bring the region's total number of publicly funded long-term care beds in the region to 6,550, the government said in a statement.

"We need to address the issue of long-term care," Health Minister Adrian Dix said. "COVID-19 has demonstrated to us the central vulnerability … of people living in long-term care.

"We also have a broader question of improving care standards and ensuring that all of us have access to the care we need, when we need it."

Dix said the Interior Health Region's population of seniors 75 years old or over will increase 28 per cent in the next five years, "a substantial, enormous increase."

The plan for the 495 beds breaks down as follows:

  • 140 beds for Kelowna.
  • 100 for Kamloops.
  • 90 for Vernon.
  • 90 for Penticton.
  • 75 in Nelson. 

The exact location of the beds will be determined through the bid process, the government said.

The province said the request for proposals to find those beds is now open. Proposals will be assessed in the fall and decisions will be made in early 2021. 

Dix said construction will begin in 2021.

Home support, assisted living investments needed

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel McKenzie said the beds will be welcomed by the communities they are slated for but added the government needs to do more for home support and assisted living in B.C.

She said there haven't been any investments in assisted living in some time, and most seniors prefer assisted living or home support to going into long-term care.

"I think we certainly have some work to do in those areas and I think we can't lose sight of that," McKenzie said.

She said there is currently a wait-list of about 530 people to get into long-term care in the Interior alone.

She said that part of the province has a growing proportion of seniors, many of whom move there after "cashing out" their properties elsewhere.

The proportion of seniors there now, she said, rivals even Vancouver Island.

That growth, she said, highlights the need for more investment in assisted living and home support, which reduces demand for long-term care.

With files from Adrien Blanc

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