An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE NEW CEO OF THE B.C. Care Providers Association is going to be a busy boy.
He is none other than Kamloops’ own Terry Lake, whose appointment was announced yesterday. Lake takes over the Vancouver-based organization Sept. 8.
The BCCPA is an advocacy group representing private and not-for-profit long-term care, assisted living and home support providers.
Lake’s choice is interesting, maybe brilliant and at least a little ironic, since he is a former BC Liberal health minister. One of his main jobs will presumably be carrying on the fight to get more long-term care support from the NDP government; the Liberal government of which he was part is blamed for cutting back funding for long-term care and actually closing more long-term care beds than it opened.
At the same time, for-profit beds increased 42 per cent between 2001 and 2016. Staffing levels in those facilities declined in comparison to government-operated counterparts. The average annual increase in total healthcare spending dropped in comparison to other provinces.
As Lake was ending his four-year stint as health minister in 2017 a study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives recommended an immediate stop to the privatization of the home and community care system.
By the time COVID-19 hit, the long-term care system was broken and incapable of effectively dealing with the pandemic. Across Canada, most deaths from the virus occurred in long-term care facilities, and we’re all familiar with the stories of shameful neglect in some of them.
In B.C., the government stepped in to top up workers’ pay and end the practice of employees working at more than one facility. The B.C. Care Providers Association, meanwhile, has lobbied for the province to fix the critical shortage of long-term care providers and increase funding for seniors care, and for the feds to appoint a task force on the well-being of seniors in long-term care homes.
B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie has been vocal in criticizing the shortage of care hours in the province’s long-term care facilities and demanding more transparency on where the money is spent.
On the same day Lake’s hiring was announced, she announced a study into the impacts of isolating long-term care residents from their families during the pandemic, a situation that is only now beginning to be relaxed. Mackenzie is one of the first people Lake says he needs to talk to.
And while Health Minister Adrian Dix just recently announced 495 new long-term care beds in the Interior Health region, including 100 in Kamloops, his government has declined to undertake a review of the private-operation structure until after the pandemic.
Whether Lake’s past as a BC Liberal health minister will make for cordial relations with Dix, Premier John Horgan and the New Democrats, or for tense ones, remains to be seen. At the least, though, Lake brings important experience and an insider’s knowledge to the job as he fights to reform the system he was at least partly responsible for while protecting the interests of his employers.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.