Complaints about home care and support on Vancouver Island were up 45 per cent in 2018 compared to the year prior.
A new report released by the Office of the Seniors Advocate of British Columbia shows a 32 per cent rise in home care complaints across the province, over and above a 23 per cent increase the year prior.
And Vancouver Island surpasses the provincial rate. There were 187 complaints from Island Health home care patients in 2017-2018 – a small portion of the total patients, but still a 45 per cent jump from the previous year.
The biggest portion of complaints that came in across B.C. were about delays, disruptions or a lack of accessibility.
“The challenges around home support are, I think, that over the years we have contracted what the service does and we have contracted who we provide the service to,” said Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. “We’ve done that in part because we have focused on some higher need people. But then we’re leaving those who still have needs, but aren’t the highest needs people.”
Over 40,000 B.C. residents receive a form of home care, including more than 9, 500 on Vancouver Island.
The complaints were collected from two sectors of home care: professional home care services: nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy and other services provided on a short-term basis following surgery or illness, and home support: services provided to patients that need long-term regular assistance with medication, bathing and health monitoring.
Mackenzie said that for a significant amount of seniors over 85-years-old, home care is a life line to independence.
“As one gets older…most people still want to live in their own home and home support allows them to do that by bringing care to them, rather than making them go somewhere where the care is provided,” she said.
Complaints may be up, but the number of home care hours delivered on the Island has decreased more than anywhere else in B.C.
The number of hours delivered on Vancouver Island is down by more than 150,000 hours, or six per cent, and the number of patients receiving home care at all is down 2.8 per cent.
Island Health attributes the complaints to a province-wide shortage of community health workers and said it works collaboratively with home care service providers “as concerns are raised to ensure safe and quality care.”
“Ensuring home support clients receive the services they need – when they need them – is a top priority for Island Health,” the authority said in an email. “When clients have concerns, we take them seriously and we work closely with the client and their care providers to resolve issues as they arise.”
Clients with concerns about home support care or any other publicly funded service are encouraged to speak with managers or care providers and contact Island Health’s Patient Care Quality Office if their issues are not resolved.
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