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B.C. and Ottawa announce $733M in federal health funding for province's seniors

VANCOUVER — British Columbia's seniors advocate welcomes newly announced federal funding for seniors' health care, and says she's particularly excited about the promise to support seniors at home.

Isobel Mackenzie said she also hopes some of that money is allocated to cover home-support payments for about 70 per cent of B.C. seniors who don't qualify for the Guaranteed Income Supplement.

"We charge the most by quite a bit," she said of the province.

"We need to do more in-home and in-community care. We need to get rid of the copayment for home support, and we need to improve the home support that is delivered through our public programs."

British Columbia and Ottawa announced Monday $733 million in new federal funding over the next five years to improve health care for the province’s seniors.

Those funds will help expand home and community care, improve access to palliative and end-of-life services and improve the quality of long-term care, federal Health Minister Mark Holland told a news conference Monday.

He said it is the first agreement on aging with dignity in the country.

"We have an aging population, but we have to rise and meet that challenge," he said.

Holland said he has been working "very closely" with his B.C. counterpart, Adrian Dix.

"We see a strengthening of the safety and quality of long-term care generally in this agreement, and improvement to the quality of dementia care, increased access to palliative end-of-life care to people outside of hospitals, to personalize care, and to make sure there's greater oversight," he said.

The announcement by Holland and Dix in Vancouver marks the second major bilateral health funding deal between the two governments in four months.

It builds on a $1.2-billion deal announced in October that aims to improve how health information is collected, shared and used. A plan to streamline foreign credential recognition for internationally educated health professionals was also announced.

Dix told the news conference that the province is working to improve the health-care system, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a big impact on seniors.

He said there's been a significant increase of elderly seniors in the province and the new agreement reflects the needs of society.

"You can see it in the changing demographics of our country and our province in particular," he said.

Dix said life expectancy has improved in the province, which "is a great thing," but it means services are also needed to keep up with the need.

The minister said the federal funds will be used "to make significant improvements to allow people to live longer at home and to make better preparation to go into long-term care, to improve … dementia care and also to invest in our workforce."

Mackenzie said she hopes some of the funding will be allocated to increasing the number of care hours for long-term patients to 4.1 hours per day from the current 3.36-hour standard. She noted the province does typically meet or exceed the current benchmark.

The province should also prioritize converting any remaining multibed wards in long-term care sites to single rooms, Mackenzie added.

Dix and Holland officially signed the agreement immediately after the news conference Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 12, 2024.

The Canadian Press