The B.C. government is taking control of the employee contracts in privately-run home support services and rolling them back into Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health, a move that is drawing sharp criticism from the BC Care Providers Association.
The change is happening as the contracts with external service providers for home support services are set to expire in March 2020. The health authorities will not be renewing these contracts as they work with the Ministry of Health to prepare enhancements in home support care.
“Living a healthy, independent life at home is important to people in our region who access our home support services, which is why we are working with government to improve the way we deliver this care,” Fraser Health CEO Dr. Victoria Lee said.
“We believe making this thoughtful and deliberate change will result in better services for our clients and better experiences for our employees.”
The provincial government says home support helps people live independently in their home. Both Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health say they have identified opportunities to better integrate services offered by the health authorities and their own teams of care providers, particularly given the rise in demand for home support services in their regions.
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The BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) says it is expressing ‘deep disappointment’. The organizations says the government changes will drive up the cost of the support, and complicate the staffing shortage crisis the sector is facing without addressing the needs of B.C. seniors.
The care providers association CEO, Daniel Fontaine, says many of the organization’s members are telling him that their staff do not want to work for government.
“What we’ve heard from seniors is that they want more services and longer visit times, and today’s B.C. government decision does nothing to address this,” BCCPA CEO Daniel Fontaine said. “Seniors are seeking extra help with their daily needs, such as getting a cup of tea, doing their laundry, or help with medications.“
“This decision to bring them back into government-run operations is fraught with risks, and makes no practical sense from the standpoint of seniors.”
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Fontaine says the majority of home support services in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser and Island Health regions have been provided by non-government providers. A 2016 satisfaction survey conducted by the Ministry of Health indicated extremely high customer satisfaction levels around 93 per cent.
“This decision does not appear to be evidence-based, and apparently involved no consultation at all with seniors,” Fontaine said.
“What’s doubly shocking is that the BC Ombudsperson has been calling for a full assessment of B.C.’s home support program since 2012, and that work is yet to be done seven years later.”
The government says the change to an “in-house model” has advantages including improved coordination of care for our seniors and the ability to better track and manage a complex service delivery model to ensure effective and efficient care. The province says the change will allow for the creation of integrated teams where staff interacting with clients are connected, can work collaboratively to meet the clients’ needs, spend less time travelling, and increase flexibility for employees.
“This transition will create an excellent opportunity for our health authorities to form integrated teams to improve patient care, enhance service coordination, and better align home support with the provincial vision of more team-based and connected community and primary care systems,” Vancouver Coastal Health CEO Mary Ackenhusen said.
Fraser Health currently provides 37 per cent of home support services in-house, and will move to approximately 90 per cent, beginning that transition in the coming weeks with targeted completion in the next 12 months.
Vancouver Coastal Health currently provides 26 per cent of home support services in-house, and it will also move to approximately 90 per cent over the next 12 to 18 months.