Interior seniors wait longer for long-term care than in Lower Mainland, seniors advocate says

Statistics show that how long you are likely to wait for a long-term care bed depends heavily on where in the province you live.

Seniors in the interior are at a disadvantage compared to those in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.

It’s a problem the province’s seniors advocate believes could be tackled by better planning.

According to the most recent data compiled by the Office of the Seniors Advocate, which measured wait lists last spring, Interior Health has the longest waitlist for long-term care of the province’s five health authorities.

At that point, 480 people in the Interior were waiting for a bed, and average and median wait times in the region were far higher than in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.

“If you look at [Vancouver Coastal Health], for example, about 90 per cent of people are placed in less than 30 days. But, when we look at other areas, North Health and Interior Health in particular we are finding much much longer waiting times,” Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie said.

Interior Health points out there has been some improvement, compared to recent years with two-thirds of seniors in need of a bed now getting a placement within 30 days.

Interior Health said no one in the Okanagan was available for an interview Monday however last week the health authority said many factors influence how long people wait for residential care, including whether they are willing to take the first available bed.

“Certainly we assess people’s care supports based on their need and sometimes that may mean that an individual is waiting for a service,” said Angela Szabo, who manages hospital and community integrated services for Interior Health in the north Okanagan.

“There [are] a variety of reasons why that may occur. Sometimes that’s an individual’s preference. It depends on the health of the individuals that are accessing services.”

In a statement, Interior Health pointed out that it offers “a wide-range of services to keep [seniors] in their homes for as long as possible,” and that patients “only go into long-term care when they require 24-hour, seven day a week professional nursing support.”

What the seniors advocate would like to see is a province-wide approach to planning care beds, instead of each health authority making its own plans.

“Bottom line is I think we need to map the province and see where we need our care beds and make sure that we get the capacity there that we need because, clearly, there are parts of the province desperate for more beds. Parts of the province may be okay,” Mackenzie said.

Mackenzie said good, evidence-based planning of long-term care locations is needed as the population of seniors in B.C. is only going to grow.

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