While some of the provinces around the country give contracted health care providers extra funding to compensate for leap year, it’s not the case in BC for non-profit or privately operated facilities contracted to provide care, says David Hurford, a spokesperson for the BC Seniors Care Providers Association.
“In Williams Lake you have a couple of contractors there that are providing publicly funded services for the health authorities. They do not get funded for that extra day of the year. They are doing it for nothing,” Hurford says, adding it’s care for a day that contractors are providing for a day at no cost.
In a press release issued on Feb. 29, the BCPA said the dollar amount of that free day totalled $3 million worth of costs associated with providing 24-hour care for that one day.
Hurford did say that the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority provided leap year funding, but others had not.
“We’re making the case that it’s a gift that the providers are giving and to make sure that contribution is being recognized. These providers are working hard in the community every day,” Hurford says.
Instead of calling on the government to fund leap year funding, the BCCPA is asking the government to respond to the recent BC Ombudsperson Kim Carter’s recommendations to improve the province’s senior care system.
“In the report she highlighted a number of funding inequities that exist within the seniors health care system right now. This is one of those funding inequities, but there are larger ones that she’s pointed to that we’re following up on with the government,” Hurford says.
Health Minister Mike de Jong says two things come to mind regarding the association’s press release.
“First of all, my understanding of most contracts, and there are some variations and that’s something that we need to work on — but most of the contracts provide funding to X number of beds over the course of the year, generally 365 days.
What will happen during the course of that year, however, when a resident leaves or is transferred there will be a few days, not many but a few days in the year where the bed is empty.”
The contract does not provide for reimbursement of those days, de Jong suggests. “So over the course of four years, it all kind of comes out in the wash.”
Focusing on the Ombudperson’s recommendations, Hurford says she has identified realities the BCCPA has been raising for years.
Some of those points include long waiting lists for seniors in hospitals waiting for placement into residential care beds, insufficient funding to achieve provincial staffing levels at most residential care facilities, and user fees collected from seniors have not been fully returned to facilities for enhanced staffing as promised.
De Jong, however, says when the government announced residential care rate adjustments in 2009, it said all additional revenue would be invested back into residential care.
Of the $45 million invested so far into increased staffing levels, staff education and equipment at facilities across the province, more than $35 million has gone to contracted care providers, he adds.