By Carole James
For 16 years, the previous government made funding cuts that directly impacted seniors in our community and around the province. Our government is making different choices. Seniors deserve high quality services and supports which is why we’ve responded with the most significant investments benefitting seniors in a generation – totalling more than $1 billion over three years.
Staff in residential care homes work incredibly hard and do a fantastic job caring for our seniors. But when residential care homes are under-resourced, staff is challenged to deliver the level of care seniors deserve. To address this gap, we’re investing an additional $240 million to increase the direct care seniors receive to 3.36 hours per-resident day, on average, in each health authority, by 2021. This will mark the first time this average has been reached since the Ministry of Health set that target almost 10 years ago.
Recently the Minister of Health announced changes to give people more flexibility in choosing their preferred care home. Effective July 15, 2019, seniors will no longer have to accept the first available bed – providing seniors and their families with the time and information necessary to make these important decisions.
In addition, Minister Dix announced that not only will wait lists be standardized and managed consistently, but while waiting for placement in their facility of choice, seniors will have the option to stay at home with additional supports or go to an interim facility. These improvements are set to make the process much more client-centred, ensuring seniors have greater choice in where they live.
We’re also investing in more respite care for people caring for their elderly parents, through additional funding for adult care programs. By increasing our investments in home care, seniors are now making fewer routine trips to the hospital – allowing them to spend more time at home in their communities.
To make sure people can afford the prescription medicines they need, we have eliminated PharmaCare deductibles for people with incomes below $30,000 and reduced deductibles for people with incomes below $45,000. We also cut MSP premiums by 50 percent and as of December 31, 2019 will have eliminated them completely – saving individuals $900 per year and couples $1,800.
I’ve spoken with many in our community who are already benefitting from the eligibility expansion and increases to average benefits under the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters (SAFER) program. Because of these changes, more than 17,000 low-income seniors will benefit from an average increase of $930 per year, helping seniors in every corner of our province stay in their communities.
Seniors will also benefit from our commitment to build 114,000 new rental, social and co-op homes. We’re working hard to build the right supply and with the largest investment in housing in our province’s history, we’re working with partners at all levels to streamline the creation of the homes people need across British Columbia.
And finally, we’ve restored the 100 percent seniors discount on BC Ferries fares that the previous government cut. With discounts applicable to trips taken between Monday and Thursday, seniors can travel more affordably on and off the island.
These are just some of the initiatives we’ve introduced for seniors in our first two years in government. We will continue to put people first and take steps to make life more affordable, improve the services you count on, and invest in a strong, sustainable economy.
Best wishes to everyone for a terrific autumn ahead.
MLA, Victoria-Beacon Hill
1084 Fort Street, Victoria, BC V8V 3K4