Most seniors in long-term care homes are in facilities getting some type of government funding -- but there's little transparency about how that money is spent. That's just one of the findings unveiled in a new report by the seniors advocate.
The report, called "A Billion Reasons to Care," said the province spends $1.3 billion on an industry that takes in $1.4 billion in revenue. Isobel Mackenzie unveiled the report in Victoria Tuesday and said her office took a look at the difference between not-for-profit and for-profit homes that receive public funds. One of the findings is that the for-profit facilities failed to provide more than 200,000 hours of care that they were paid for.
The report is the first-ever province-wide review of for-profit and not-for-profit seniors care homes receiving some type of taxpayer dollars. It looked at contracts, audited financial statements, and expense reports. Privately-run homes that are completely funded through customers were not reviewed.
Asked whether the government was essentially handing over a blank cheque, Mackenzie replied, "To some extent, yes, that is the basis of the contracted relationship and has been for the last twenty years."
The seniors advocate's office looked through contracts and financial documents for the review. It also found that for-profits spent double on what non-profits did on building costs, and in some cases taxpayers may be paying down mortgages that would benefit shareholders, not seniors.
Context missing says BC Care Providers Association
The BC Care Providers Association represents, among others, non-government operators of long-term care organizations. CEO Daniel Fontaine takes issue with the seniors advocate not asking for the organizations’ input, and he insists some much-needed context is missing.
"For seniors across the province, it works out to about three minutes less per day," he said of the 200,000 missing care hours.
Fontaine went on to say more than 11 million care hours were provided – and that is information he would’ve liked to see in the report. He said he also takes issue with other data points as he said the comparisons made aren’t necessarily apples to apples.
He also questioned why the report didn’t look at government-operated care facilities.
Advocates say it’s time to act
Kim Slater started advocating for better conditions at care homes for seniors when his mom was admitted. Years after her death, he's still concerned by those who make big profits but pay low wages. He is now part of the Vancouver Island Association of Family Councils. They are pushing for change.
The advocate said part of the problem is providers get a lump-sum per bed. If operators spend less money on care, they get to keep the rest.
"It's hard to believe that there aren't more checks and balances to make sure the money’s being spent appropriately," Slater told CTV News.
Health Minister says work in progress
Health authorities are the ones who dole out funding for care homes. Health Minister Adrian Dix said while some of the data would need to be verified, he’s pleased with the work the advocate is doing.
Dix said the province has taken action on some of the advocate’s previous recommendations related to increasing the quality of care for seniors on a daily basis. He said there’s been an increase in the number of care hours received by each senior in care, and transparency has been improved as well.
"This has been the best two years of reform in seniors care, but I would be the first to say we’ve got a long way to go," he said.
The advocate also made recommendations to improve financial controls and accountability for money spent in the long-term care industry. The minister said work was already being done on that front.