NDP leader Adrian Dix says the province had three years to impose new fees for wheelchair rentals but waited until after the election.

Policy allowing wheelchair fees in place since 2010

Health authorities waited until after election, NDP charges

A wheelchair rental fee being imposed by Lower Mainland health authorities in residential care homes has no precedent in B.C. after all, nor any clear reason for its timing.

Health ministry officials have backtracked on their initial claim the planned $25 a month fee for seniors in publicly run residential care homes is already in place in some areas outside the Lower Mainland.

In fact, the Northern, Interior and Vancouver Island health authorities have been considering a similar fee, but have yet to impose one nor have they gone as far as issuing notifications to residents, as Fraser Health has done.

The fee is to recoup the cost of maintaining wheelchairs that until now have been provided for free at publicly operated care homes to residents who don’t have their own. Many privately operated care homes have had such fees for years.

And it remains unclear what has triggered the move now.

Ministry officials previously pointed to an Oct. 2012 update of a policy manual outlining allowable fees for residents in care, saying the health authorities are now coming into line with that change.

Except that there was no change.

The provision for fees on “chargeable items” such as wheelchairs and canes already existed with identical wording in earlier April 2011 and January 2010 versions of the Home and Community Care policy manual.

“The 2010 and 2011 policies contain the same sections, using the same language, delivering the same meaning on what the health authorities could charge for a wheelchair,” B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix said.

“What we’re seeing is Fraser Health responding to the government’s unbalanced budget – after the election, of course, which presumably was part of the instructions – and imposing these charges now.”

Dix said it’s “symbolically remarkable” that the fees have come while senior government staff are getting large raises and said it’s “disrespectful and laughable” for Fraser Health to treat wheelchair access as a fee-for-service item like cable TV in a seniors’ home.

Ministry spokesman Ryan Jabs maintained the 2011 and 2012 revisions clarified the manual and made it clear no one will be denied a wheelchair if they can’t afford to pay the fee.

Asked again if health authorities or the province are imposing the fee, Jabs said the decision to charge is up to the health authorities but they are all working with the ministry “to ensure that charges for allowable extras are coordinated province-wide.”

The rationale for the charge is that residential care is a person’s home, Jabs said, and while the public health system covers the cost of medical and health care needs,  care home residents should pay for personal equipment and supplies as they would if they lived in the community.

Fraser Health’s notification letter indicates new residents arriving at its facilities after Sept. 1 “will be required to purchase or rent equipment from an external supplier.”

Vicki Huntington, the independent MLA for Delta South, on Monday said that could mean much steeper charges – wheelchairs rent privately for $75 to $100 a month.

But Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma said new residents will still be able to borrow health authority wheelchairs at the $25 per month cost, subject to availability.

Juma called it a misunderstanding, noting that it has always been the expectation that residents purchase or rent wheelchairs externally if they have the means, while facility wheelchairs are available for those who can’t.

Fraser Health intends to begin charging the fee Sept. 1, as announced, Juma said.

That allows nearly three months for residents who can’t afford it to apply for a hardship waiver, she said.

Juma said new residents are also being notified so it won’t come as a surprise.

Huntington renewed her calls for the province to step in and kill the planned fee.

She noted the $25 comes out of each resident’s $200 comfort allowance, and would be equivalent to a 12 per cent income tax hike.

“It’s making mobility a privilege in these institutions and not a right,” Huntington said. “It’s a lot of money to take out of their disposable income. I think it’s a revenue grab, I really do.”

Just Posted

New police force in Surrey must avoid VPD, RCMP errors made in Pickton case: Oppal

Boots are scheduled to be on the ground by spring 2021

PHOTOS: Surrey designer uses toilet paper to make a dress for annual Toronto show

‘The dress is very experimental and avante garde,’ says Guildford-based Alex S. Yu

Police issue warning after four overdoses in North Delta

Police and emergency health services use naloxone to revive four overdose victims Thursday morning

Surrey reacts to policing plan getting the green light

Former mayor, councillors and residents weigh in on the Public Safety Minister approving the transition

Trudeau vows to stand firm against ‘increasingly assertive’ China

China has accused Canada of meddling in its affairs

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

North Van music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

B.C. family stranded in Croatia desperate to come home

Funds being raised to bring back mom and two children

B.C. man on trial for daughters’ murders says an intruder broke in

Andrew Berry takes stand in his defense for December 2017 deaths of young daughters

‘Plenty of time for a deal’: Teachers’ union expects kids back in school on Sept. 3

BCTF says class size, composition at the heart of the issue

Most Read