Staffing levels, equipment needs and transportation top seniors care issues in Kootenays

Staffing levels, equipment needs and transportation top seniors care issues in Kootenays

Daniel Fontaine, CEO of the BCCPA, made Castlegar a stop on the association’s “listening tour.”

The CEO of the BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) made Castlegar one of the stops on what the association is calling their “listening tour.”

The association represents over 300 non-government-assisted living facilities and home care service providers.

Daniel Fontaine held meetings with front-line staff at Rose Wood Village in Trail before meeting with senior management from several different residential care, assisted living and independent living residences at Castle Wood Village. This was followed up by a round-table session with residents of Castle Wood.

“It is for me to get out of the lower mainland and actually listening to what is happening both on the front line and with management across the province,” said Fontaine.

Several common themes emerged from the meetings. Ensuring there is enough staff on site was a top priority with many. Fontaine expects that a recent announcement from the province of $500 million in additional senior’s funding and a move to an average of 3.36 direct care hours by health authorities should help with the situation.

“It will bring the level of care up so that care homes are more consistent from care home to care home around the type of staffing they have.” explained Fontaine.

One of the front-line care workers he met with told him they felt the decision will be a huge help in being able to provide quality care and being able to attend to the little things.

Fontaine also heard a lot about the problem of retention and recruitment of workers in the area.

“Whatever formula we designed in Victoria or Vancouver does not necessarily have application in in the Kootenays or in fact, in many smaller communities in British Columbia,” he said.

Fontaine also hopes the new funding will help with this problem.

“That money will help to reduce the incidence of what we call casualization in our industry — where people are not working full time, but several casual positions,” he explained.

The need for more equipment and the length of time it takes to acquire new equipment were also addressed during the meetings. BCCPA has recently received a $10 million grant to address the immediate need for the purchase of equipment such as wheelchairs, specialized beds and ceiling lifts.

“We will be running this on behalf of the whole sector,” explained Fontaine. The program will launch later this year.

Safety of workers was also brought forward as a concern.

“Health care workers have the highest injury rate of any occupation in the province,” said Fontaine. “When you have a shortage of workers, the worst thing you can do is have a shortage and then have people off sick or injured.”

The seniors themselves brought up their struggles with transportation. Fontaine carried this issue over into his meeting with Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff who sits on the West Kootenay Transit Committee.