A group of grannies gathered in front of the B.C. Health Ministry office on Thursday afternoon to sing and speak about the state of extended care for seniors in B.C. and Canada.
The Raging Grannies, a satirical grassroots group composed of older women, called for an end to the public funding of for-profit care homes.
“COVID-19 has really laid bare the problems in senior care homes. We want to keep it in the public eye [and] hopefully make changes because these are actual people’s homes,” said Charlene Simon during the demonstration.
The group practiced physical distancing and wore masks, only removing them to sing songs addressed to B.C.’s Minister of Health Adrian Dix.
“Dear mister minister, we can’t see our family or tell the world that it’s worse than jail,” they sang to the tune of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson. “Please mister minister, check up on those private homes where patients suffer and still pay. Do you want your grandmother begging for a diaper? It doesn’t have to be this way.”
At one point, the group put on a skit where some of the women called out for help, with one of them falling out of a wheelchair. Another woman, playing the role of a long-term care home administrator, told them they’d have to wait for care as the doctor is only in once a week or that they’d get their medication when staff had time.
“We’re asking for accountability in public reporting and transparency,” Simon said.
The demonstration is in response to a February report published by the B.C. Office of the Seniors Advocate. The report, called A Billion Reasons to Care, examined long-term care industry contracts, annual audited financial statements and detailed reporting on revenue and expenditures for the years 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018.
Highlights from the review say it found that financial reporting systems were inconsistent between health authorities and that they lacked openness and transparency. It also found that less than half of care home operators are required to make their audited financial statements available to the public and no care homes publicly report their expense statements.
While receiving, on average, the same level of public funding, the report found that not-for-profit care homes spend $10,000 or 24 per cent more per year on care for each resident while for-profit care homes failed to deliver 207,000 funded direct care hours. Not-for-profit care homes exceeded direct care hour targets by delivering an additional 80,000 hours of direct care beyond what they were publicly funded to deliver.
“This issue affects us all,” Simon said. “We have a right to know how that money is being spent. We want assurances that provisions brought in during COVID-19 will continue after.”
-With files from Nina Grossman