Senior care is blemish on Liberal vision

The New Democrats and their natural allies are feasting on the soft underbelly of Premier Christy Clark’s “Families First” vision

The New Democrats and their natural allies are feasting on the soft underbelly of Premier Christy Clark’s “Families First” vision — a political dream that is quickly becoming a nightmare.

Almost every day in Question Period the Opposition NDP reveals a new health care travesty, another example of the appalling gap between the Liberals’ feel-good rhetoric and the sad conditions our most vulnerable citizens are forced to endure.

Here’s a one-week sample of NDP revelations: a Kitwanga senior was forced to languish for 38 days in a Hazelton hospital before he could have a 30-minute surgery on his back. The NDP pointed out that not only is it unconscionable that a senior is forced to stay that long in hospital before having minor surgery, but the cost of this screw up — $1,000 a day — is a waste of precious taxpayer resources.

And, then there’s the case of Ted Powis. He fell down a flight of stairs at Hollyburn House, a Vancouver seniors’ care centre, and wasn’t discovered by staff until the following morning.

Even worse, NDP Leader Adrian Dix raised the issue of Eldon Mooney, a senior who choked to death at Sunrise of Lynn Valley, another seniors’ home. The staff said he died peacefully in his sleep. The awful truth came out because his daughter had placed a nanny cam in her dad’s room.

Health Minister Mike de Jong was forced to concede that “the circumstances of Mr. Mooney’s passing are troubling.” Most troubling, he admitted, was “the part of the report where the coroner confirms that staff present at the death of the resident were not truthful with regards to the circumstances.”

In support of Opposition allegations of seniors neglect, the B.C. Health Coalition landed on the front steps of the legislature last week to give the government a failing grade for its lack of progress to improve the quality of life for seniors.

The coalition is concerned that key recommendations in a two-year-old ombudsperson’s report are gathering dust. Specifically, the coalition says that even though the province has passed a Residents’ Bill of Rights, it has not complied with the most important recommendation to monitor, evaluate and report annually on compliance with the bill.

As well, the province has not agreed to set up a central website with accessible, up-to-date and comparable information about seniors’ facilities.

Ombudsperson Kim Carter also asked government to establish an ongoing position — call it a seniors’ ombudsman — to promote and help develop resident and family councils, and to report publicly on those activities every year. Carter said this action was to be taken by June 30, 2010.

The health minister says he’s waiting for part two of Carter’s ongoing seniors probe before taking further action.

But the NDP knows the public is not going to put up with Liberal dithering while our old folks are falling down stairs and choking to death. Seniors’ health critic Katrine Conroy has introduced the Representative for Seniors Act. The bill would create an independent officer of the legislature to advocate for seniors.

Of course, the NDP legislation will never see the light of day. They did the same thing in 2007 and the Liberals refused to support it.

But it does highlight with embarrassing clarity the depth of the Liberals’ credibility chasm. M

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