Ottawa, B.C. commit $733M to seniors’ health care

Ottawa and B.C. announced $733 million in new funding for the province’s seniors on Monday, the second major bilateral health-care deal between the two governments in four months.

The funds, to be distributed over five years, will help expand home and community care services, improve access to palliative and end-of-life care, and improve the quality of long-term care services.

According to Statistics Canada, British Columbia has one of the highest proportions of residents over 85 in Canada.

“We want to get on to making key improvements in the health-care system, especially in this period as we’ve lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, which so affected seniors’ care and the lives of seniors in B.C. and everywhere in Canada,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a press conference.

In Surrey alone, he added, the number of people over 80 is expected to increase 240 per cent between now and 2038.

“This agreement today reflects that changing society,” Dix said.

The funds will reduce pressure on hospitals and emergency departments, increase the skill and size of the long-term care workforce, and support the implementation of care standards in long-term care homes. They also aim to improve care for people living with dementia, through standardized education and monitoring tools.

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A recent study from the Alzheimer Society of Canada predicted the number of people living with dementia across the country is expected to increase by 187 per cent between 2020 and 2050.

The B.C. government will be required to report on its progress annually against established performance targets.

“It’s not for us to say to the province, ‘Achieve x or y or z,’ it’s more about how we work commonly to set these indicators, which are developed with CIHI, and then make sure those are available and people can see how their province is doing and how other provinces are doing,” explained federal Health Minister Mark Holland.

CIHI stands for the Canadian Institute for Health Information, whose 80 indicators measure health status, non-medical determinants of health, health system performance, and community and health system characteristics. The indicators are produced at the provincial, territorial and federal levels.

Monday’s agreement also aims to improve the collection, sharing and reporting of health information nationwide, streamline foreign credential recognition for internationally educated health-care workers, and facilitate the movement of key health professionals across the country.

“People in our province deserve to know that their governments are working together to ensure that seniors can access quality health care that are vital to their wellbeing as they age, close to home,” said Harwinder Sandhu, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for seniors’ services and long-term care, in a news release.

“By continually expanding access to the home and community care services and long-term care that people in B.C. need, we are making senior care in our communities stronger and better so our seniors can live healthier lives and age gracefully surrounded by their loved ones.”

The $733 million is on top of the $1.2-billion health-care deal announced by B.C. and Ottawa in October 2023.

That bilateral agreement promised funds over three years to improve access to mental health and addiction services, double the number of Foundry centres in B.C. and develop a care model for 83 acute care sites across the province.

It also aimed to bolster collaboration with the First Nations Health Authority on culturally appropriate and trauma-informed treatment and care for patients.

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