B.C. long-term care residents and their family members will soon have stronger avenues to ensure their voices are heard, with the creation of new representative councils and a provincial committee.
Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the changes Thursday (Nov. 3), saying the province’s goal is to address the lack of agency residents faced throughout the first several years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is a debt owed,” Dix said.
He said most of B.C.’s 308 long-term care homes already have groups of residents, family members and advocates that meet regularly to promote their interests and rights, known as resident and family councils. On Thursday though, the province announced the creation of regional councils, which will bring together representatives from independent councils in each health authority to allow for increased collaboration.
Representatives from those regional councils will then take part in a new provincial committee, led by the Ministry of Health.
“Now the very people who are actually experiencing long-term care up close and personal will have a guaranteed collective voice on policy decisions that affect them,” Kim Slater, founder of Family Councils of BC, said.
Mable Elmore, parliamentary secretary for Seniors’ Services and Long-term Care, said they’ll further be requiring long-term care operators to meet with councils at least twice a year. Changes to regulations will also allow councils to meet without operators if they prefer, however. Regardless, it will be up to care home operators to provide access to meeting rooms for up to three hours and any equipment required.
Also changing are regulations around the responsiveness of long-term care licensees. Going forward, they will be required to reply in writing to all recommendations councils bring forward to them. Operators and licensees will also be required to share all information from the Ministry of Health with the councils.
Thursday’s announcements don’t address any requirements around staffing levels, which was an area of high concern throughout the pandemic. In July, University of British Columbia researchers and the BC Care Providers Association released a report calling on the province to re-evaluate the hours of care long-term care residents receive a day. Current provincial regulation sets that number at 3.36 hours.
The new regional councils and provincial committee do, however, provide a new avenue for residents and family members to advocate for those changes. Both will begin meeting in spring 2023.