Marteny: Understanding how the health authorities operate

These are some of the findings in a report prepared by B.C. Ombudsperson Kim Carter about seniors care in B.C.

In my column today are some of the findings outlined in a report prepared by B.C. Ombudsperson Kim Carter released this month about seniors care in this province.

The report was entitled The Best of Care: Getting it Right for Seniors in British Columbia.

Seniors are defined as people who are 65 years or older.

Provincial statistics estimate that about 677,770 seniors were living in British Columbia in 2010.

The Fraser Health Authority has more seniors than any other region—almost one-third of the provincial population of seniors.

The Northern Health Authority has the fewest seniors, while the Interior Health Authority, Vancouver Costal Healthy Authority and Vancouver Island Health Authority have similar numbers of seniors.

By 2020, seniors are expected to make up 19  per cent of the province’s population, increasing to 24 per cent by 2036.

This means that today’s provincial senior population of about 678,000 is expected to grow to an estimated 984,000 in 2020 and to reach nearly 1.46 million by 2036.

Carter’s report focused on three health services that are integral to seniors’ care in British Columbia.

These services—home support, assisted living, and residential care —are outlined within a larger framework known as the home and community care.

The B.C. Ministry of Health is the overall steward of the provincial health care system.

In 1993, the provincial government passed legislation to begin the transfer of responsibility for the delivery of health services to health authorities.

There are now five health authorities that deliver health services within their geographic regions—The Fraser Health Authority (FHA); the Interior Health Authority (IHA); the Northern Health Authority (NHA); the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA); the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA).

The overall mandate of each health authority is to plan, deliver, monitor and report on health services within its region.

The treasury board advises the health ministry about how much funding it will receive for the budget year.

In turn, the ministry decides how much funding each health authority will receive.

To do that, the ministry uses a “population needs-based funding model.”

Population needs-based funding is a way to determine a health authority’s funding allotment based on the characteristics and needs of that region’s population.

This approach does not guarantee that a health authority’s needs will actually be funded.

As a result, there may be differences between the funding the health authorities identify as necessary and what they receive in any particular budget year.

Once the ministry informs the health authorities of what their individual budgets will be, each health authority decides how to distribute the funding it will receive to each major program area. The health authorities develop plans for projected spending in each sector.

To successfully fulfill its role as the steward of the health care system in B.C. , the health ministry needs to set standards and monitor and evaluate performance.

To do this, the ministry must have consistent, reliable data from the health authorities that are responsible for service delivery.

The Ombudsperson’s complete report is available at www.bcombudsperson.ca.

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