B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix listens as Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie speaks about her ongoing work to improve services. (B.C. government)

For-profit senior care homes spend less on staff, B.C. advocate says

Isobel Mackenzie and Adrian Dix focus on private and public care

For-profit senior care facilities in B.C. spend 49 per cent of revenues on direct care, compared to 59 per cent for non-profit care homes contracted to the provincial health ministry, B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie says in a new report.

The performance audit is the first formal examination of contracted care since NDP MLA Adrian Dix was appointed health minister in 2017 and tackled the sector’s labour relations and care delivery standards.

Mackenzie found that with $1.3 billion in contracts in place with B.C. health regions, there is insufficient reporting to compare “management fees, head office allocation and some administrative costs.”

Reporting of direct care hours depends on “self-reported unaudited expense reports prepared by the care home operators, with no ability to verify the reported worked hours,” Mackenzie said as she released the report, entitled A Billion Reasons to Care, Tuesday.

Despite the reporting gaps, Mackenzie was able to calculate that not-for-profit homes spend an average of $10,000 or 24 per cent more per year on care for each resident. For-profit care homes “failed to deliver 207,000 funded direct care home hours” during the survey period, while not-for-profit operators “exceeded direct care hour targets by delivering an additional 80,000 hours of direct care beyond what they were publicly funded to deliver,” the report finds.

The report says the difference in spending is partly due to care aide wages in for-profit care homes, where they can be paid as much as 28 per cent or $6.63 per hour less than the industry standard.

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Bringing care home delivery hours up to the province’s own standard has been a major focus for Dix, along with expanding care provided directly by regional health authorities.

Currently 33 per cent of publicly funded long-term care beds are operated by B.C.’s regional health authorities. For-profit contractors operate 35 per cent, and not-for-profit societies are responsible for the other 32 per cent.

The budget for long-term care services in B.C. is about $2 billion per year, with $1.3 billion of that spent in the contracted sector.


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