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Health minister says Surrey will need better long-term care services as population ages

Adrian Dix says number of Surrey residents over 80 years old expected to increase by 230% over next couple of decades
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Health Minister Adrian Dix says Surrey will need dramatically more and better long-term care services and home support to meet the needs of an aging population as the number of residents over 80 years old is expected to increase by 230 per cent over the next couple of decades.

Surrey over the past 20 years has been B.C.’s “youngest, most dynamic” city in B.C. and as such government decisions related to health care here have been guided by that, but this will shift as the city is expected to see a “dramatic and systematic change” as its population ages.

The city gained 100,000 residents over the past decade and by 2038 Surrey’s population is expected to swell by 200,000 more people, Dix noted during a luncheon held by the Surrey Board of Trade earlier this week.

“Can you imagine that?”

Today, he noted, there are more than 12,000 people over age 80 in Surrey.

“In 2038 there are going to be 44,000 – an increase of 230 per cent in 20 years,” he said.

“Over 60, the number of people in Surrey is going to double. While the rate of growth in the younger population is going to continue, it’s going to be a changing time. And what that says for our health care system, is that we’ve got to build out to deal with that situation because all of us know that when we’re in our 80s we use health care services more than when we’re are in our teens.”

READ ALSO: Dix says work on new Surrey hospital in Cloverdale to begin in July

Long-term care, which “hasn’t received historically enough attention” in Surrey and elsewhere in the Fraser Health Region, will become increasingly important here. “Look at the numbers – 230 per cent more people over 80 – proportionately that will mean that many more people in long-term care.”

Dix was appointed minister of health after the 2017 election at a time, he said, when long-term care homes in B.C. were supposed to be funded at 3.6 care hours per person, but almost all care homes in Surrey were “dramatically under that, such that residents in Surrey care homes got 40 minutes a day less direct care than the provincial government said they should have.”

Peace Portal, Hilton Villa and Guildford Seniors Village were the lowest funded care-hour care homes in B.C. and Surrey’s 75 care homes had under 2.9, Dix noted, “which is dramatically and unacceptably and dangerously low. So we had to change that, and we did. Every one gets funded more than 3.36 now and the average in Surrey is 3.53.”

Seventy per cent of people living in long-term care are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

“You need to provide long-term care or your acute care hospitals inevitably become long-term care homes.”

Dix said the province needs to improve access to long-term care facilities so people are “not stuck” in hospitals, and so it’s “vitally important” to focus on long-term care here “so that changing population in Surrey is met by the services they need.”

While long-term care is not as high-profile as acute care it’s nevertheless needed and essential, Dix stressed.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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