Wednesday, June 12, 2013

BC Liberals' $25 a Month Wheelchair "Maintenance" Tax on Disabled Seniors in Residential Care: What's Next?

Seniors in care homes now pay the price for BC Liberal government's promise to balance the budget.   
BC seniors in residential care will face $300 annual "maintenance" fee
Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Vancouver/The Tyee column
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 
By Bill Tieleman 
"What is it about being old and infirm that you can be treated with indignity?"
- Independent MLA Vicki Huntington on $25 monthly wheelchair rental fee
The provincial election is over -- now it's time to make elderly disabled people to pay the price for the BC Liberals' promise to balance B.C.'s budget this year.
Starting Sept. 1, both the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health authorities will charge seniors a $25 a month "maintenance" fee for use of a wheelchair in public extended care facilities.
Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington uncovered the new fee outlined in a Fraser Health letter to South Delta's Mountain View Manor residents.
It's bad enough that seniors in residential care already pay 80 per cent of their after-tax income just for their accommodation and food.
Now the government wants an additional $300 a year for wheelchairs these seniors obviously need as the only alternative to spending day and night in bed.
It can only come from their comfort fund of $200 a month that now covers personal incidentals like shampoo, Huntington reportedly said.
"The most vulnerable people are being nickeled and dimed," Huntington told me Monday. "Basically everybody in Mountain View is in a wheelchair."
And what's worse about the "maintenance" fee is that nearly all the wheelchairs are manual, hardly needing $300 a year to keep rolling, she said.
"A lot of the wheelchairs were donated by family. People are absolutely infuriated that now they want to charge a maintenance fee," Huntington said. "When you are sent to a residential care facility, you generally lack mobility and need a wheelchair."
Fraser Health claims those unable to pay will have the fee waived.
Chop, chop, chop
It's a nasty surprise you can expect to see many more of in the weeks ahead, as Premier Christy Clark looks for the hundreds of millions needed to meet her campaign pledge of a balanced budget.
Draconian spending cuts will likely be required at the two biggest ministries: health and education.
Of a $44-billion B.C. budget, health takes up $18.4 billion, or 42 per cent, while education costs $12 billion, or 27 per cent.
You can't make significant expenditure reductions while leaving 69 per cent of your total budget untouched.
But why does Clark have to cut at all, given that she promised a balanced budget just a few weeks ago?
Unfortunately for voters, when the Dominion Bond Rating Service said B.C.'s budget is probably headed for a projected deficit of $1.7 billion rather than a small surplus, it became clear that something had to give -- just not before the election.
"In response to softening economic conditions, the province announced additional tax measures and continued spending restraint to deliver a small budgeted surplus of $197 million in 2013-14," the Service wrote. "This translates into a DBRS-adjusted deficit of $1.7 billion, or less than 1 per cent of GDP."
That means B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong has to chop, chop, chop.
So while the health authorities are being painted as the bad guys in the wheelchair story, the reality is they are only fall guys for Clark's election promises.
It's why those who depend on public services, like seniors in wheelchairs, and those staff who deliver health care and education, should be very afraid.
'We're going to see more of it': Huntington
And there's yet another reason to anticipate ugly cuts to the most vulnerable -- the appointment of Energy Minister Bill Bennett to undertake a campaign promise of a "core review" of all government ministries.
The last time that happened was in 2001-2002, after ex-premier Gordon Campbell instituted a massive 25 per cent income tax cut and then discovered it created a $3.2 billion deficit by 2002-2003.
Ministries were ordered to prepare three potential budgets -- with cuts of 20 per cent, 35 per cent or 50 per cent -- and how they would be implemented in order to pay for the tax cuts.
Many services were eliminated and thousands of government employees lost their jobs or had their pay dramatically cut.
Will that happen again? Huntington fears additional cuts like those at Mountain View Manor and less scrutiny of them.
"We are going to see more of it. And it's being done without public discussion," Huntington said.
Her advice to family members and those concerned?
"Bombard MLAs' offices with phone calls, letters and emails and contact the minister of health, [Terry Lake]," Huntington said.
And stay tuned for more bad news.



DPL said...

The photo ops gal talks big but extra money goes to her staff. The poor get poorer. I find it plain dumb that if a person shows up at a retirement home with their own wheel chair, they still have to pay 300 a year. Has this government no concept of treating seniors with compassion?

WLH said...

The liberal government has had no concept of compassion for anyone in the last 12 years, with the exception of their friends, relatives, and big business, what makes anyone think that the next 4 years will be any different.

Anonymous said...

If the NDP had been smart on their campaigning, none of this would be happening.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why "we" are surprised by this or the 18% pay raise to staffers.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for what will unfold over the next four years of the Clark Evil Empire.

All British Columbians are to blame, the obvious being the inbred want-to-be plutocrats who voted Liberal, the idiots who voted for the fringe parties and finally the NDP for allowing a spineless jellyfish and appeaser to lead them to defeat.

This province will pay for its stupidity many painful times between now and 2017, and we all deserve what we get.


Anonymous said...

And all of this and whatever will come will be a big surprise?

Who in their right mind didn't see this coming.

Tis only the beginning folks.

Keith E. said...

To add to "the great satan";

the 48% that didn't have the inclination to waddle away from the T.V. to get out and vote.

In my riding with the oldest demographic in Canada, Parksville/Qualicum, the liberal candidate didn't show up for 2 all candidate meetings, one of which was in a retirement home, and still she was elected by the folks that turned out to vote.

6 months ago I would have been outraged at this situation, now, I couldn't give a rats. They wanted them, they got 'em.

Anonymous said...

Who in their right mind didn't see this coming?

Adrian for one..

Brian Topp for another...

Anonymous said...

Bill, ask coastal health what they are charging the old folks for diapers if they use more than 2 in a day. Don t take my word for this. Just over heard this at a care home ran by the government

Anonymous said...

Bend over BC, the best is yet to come.

Stan Mortensen said...

The recent spat of press about a $25.00 per month rental fee for wheelchairs to be assessed against seniors in care homes caused me to scan through the internet for pricing of wheelchairs. Interestingly, the average price for what appears to be fairly substantive units runs between USD 200 to USD 300 each. These chairs are imported duty free and we would presume only subject to import GST. A reasonable landed cost would be in CAD 275. to CAD 400. Per unit. If they are paying more than that, then I have some serious questions about their bulk purchasing.

Now wheelchairs are pretty durable pieces of equipment with a life span of about 10 or so years. Certainly those being used in a care facility are likely not used as extensively or as aggressively as those used in a hospital so it is likely that they have a longer utilitarian life span.

It is pretty clear to this writer that this is an attempt by the Board of Directors and the Executive of Fraser Health to ensure that they diminish any remaining income that seniors may have. Further, not only is this an assault on the remaining dignity of seniors but is also an assault on “working families” struggling to take care of both their families and their parents.

It seems Fraser Health believes that those in their care have an unlimited supply of money somewhere. The spokeswoman for FH stated that those in need can apply through to their case worker for assistance. Sure why not really attack their dignity even further in their declining years to beg for charity. The fact is that these are necessary pieces of transport equipment within a facility no different than a gurney or stretcher.

I believe this to be one of those defining issues for not only Fraser Health and how it interacts with those under its’ care but also for the government of day in how it cares about those of its’ citizens that are most at risk and cannot with clarity speak for themselves.

Interestingly, when you look at the Board of Directors and the Executive Listing of Fraser Health or I suspect at any of the other Health Regions around the province, there is no one, not a single individual charged with representing or advocating for and on behalf of seniors.

What I do see are people who owe their allegiances elsewhere and certainly not to those who truly do need an advocate.

DPL said...

Frazer Health isn't the only ones. It seems one of those health operations hired and fired the same nurses in a two week period. And one of the senior nurses in the place got an email telling her she was fired. People in those places get quite attached to the staff but now that the threat of the NDP taking is gone, more staff will be getting dumped as the outfits to improve , not the services but the bottom line. We will all end up in one of those places and many folks dread the idea. We live in a province that couldn't care less about the sick, old, or disabled.

Anonymous said...

Well health care was no better when the NDP was in power.

But that's a moot point.

If the NDP was smart not to listen to Brian Topp, the NDP would be starting their first session as government, not being at a the first session as opposition.

Anonymous said...

Well, the heartless liberals have hit a new low. There will be more to come. Hopefully, voters in Kelowna will reject Mrs. clark.

Anonymous said...

Why the immediate assumption that elderly = poor? What is wrong with a means tested program, where only those with a true inability to pay are given something for free? If wheelchairs are as inexpensive as Stan Mortensen indicates, why wouldn't most families provide one for their mother/father/grandparent rather than insisting the general taxpayer do so?

I think if you compared the discretionary income of the elderly (75+) with the discretionary income of young families with children, you'd find out pretty quickly where the wealth in this society lies. I do not support the notion that advanced age should automatically entitle you to free everything, unless you actually require that assistance.