British Columbia

Seniors advocate says 'underperformance' of B.C.'s private care homes is costing taxpayers

A report by B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie says seniors living in private care homes are 54 per cent more likely to die in hospital.

Report says seniors in private care significantly more likely to visit, stay and die in hospital

Residents of private seniors homes are significantly more likely to visit, stay and die in hospital than residents of a public facility, according to a new report by the B.C. Office of the Seniors Advocate.

A report released by the B.C. seniors advocate paints an unflattering picture of "underperformance" at privately operated care homes that is costing the province's taxpayers. 

Addressing issues such as the rate and length of hospital visits by private care clients could save B.C. $16 million annually, Isobel Mackenzie says.

According to the data, compared to public care homes seniors living in private facilities are:

  • 32 per cent more likely to be sent to the emergency department;
  • 34 per cent more likely to be hospitalized;
  • Likely to stay in hospital 32 per cent longer;
  • 54 per cent more likely to die in hospital.

The report stops short of making conclusions about the disparities, but does highlight potential issues in continuity of care at private homes due to staff turnover, lower wages, lower levels of clinical and educational support, and a system that allows operators to continue to receive funding for a bed left empty by a hospitalized client.

Projected savings

As well as the cost savings, addressing the problems would free up 42 hospital beds per day in B.C., Mackenzie says.

"Reducing hospitalizations for seniors is a goal that is gaining increasing attention and for good reason; it benefits both the senior and the taxpayer," she writes.

"The Ministry of Health must take a leadership role in directing the health authorities to work with their contracted care providers to collect the standardized data necessary to determine the root cause of this discrepancy, which will then allow us to make the necessary changes."

There are 28,000 publicly subsidized senior care beds in B.C. Thirty-two percent of those beds are in homes operated directly by the public health authority.

The remainder are operated by contractors under agreements with the health authority. Contracted care providers are an equal mix of not-for-profit and private companies. 

The organization that represents many of the private care providers criticized Mackenzie's methodology and findings as flawed.

In a release, Daniel Fontaine, CEO of the B.C. Care Providers Association, said the report "is filled with questionable suppositions and political buzzwords, rather than independent research." 

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