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Letter: Museum multimillions would be better spent on seniors' residences

Small-scale homes with 10 to12 private bedrooms offer a solution for people living with dementia who need care.
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The $789 earmarked for replacing the Royal BC Museum would be better spent on small-scale residences for seniors. Contributed photo


Premier Horgan recently rescinded the proposed allocation of $789 million to replace the Royal Museum in Victoria. The citizens’ advocacy group AARC BC ( ) is asking that these funds be applied to begin the reform of our long-term care system, specifically to build small-scale residences that are home-like, support quality of care and promote quality of life. Given the cost of building long-term care homes, the $789 million could finance almost twenty such public facilities, each for 100 people.

Canadian nursing homes have suffered from years of systemic neglect and repeated investigations over the years warning of grave safety problems. COVID-19 has made the public aware of these serious and long-standing issues that contributed to the death of too many care home residents. The Canadian Institute for Health Information reported in March of 2021 that “the proportion of COVID-19 deaths in LTC and retirement home residents in Canada (69%) has remained significantly higher than the international average (41%).” Old buildings have contributed to this through overcrowding and poor ventilation, along with lack of PPE.

As well, many residential care facilities in B.C. still labour under an “institutional” philosophy of care and design, and too many resemble old acute care hospitals. Many residents who lived their adult lives independently in large homes now reside in a four bedded room with one shared bathroom. These accommodations offer little room for family to sit and visit, even at the end of life. There may be limited access to outdoor space. There is often little choice about when and what one eats, and too many food items are pre-packaged rather than fresh.

There is significant research to suggest that small-scale homes, with 10 to12 private bedrooms, offer a viable solution for persons living with dementia who need care. Research is showing that smaller homes had less incidence of COVID than larger, more institutional ones. In the fall of 2020, researchers in Ontario and Quebec conducted a survey of over 3,000 people aged 50 to 69 years in their provinces. The goal was to learn how the pandemic had affected their views on long-term care. When asked about long-term or at-home care preferences post COVID, most respondents wanted to avoid nursing homes. (The Conversation, November 16, 2021.)

Inertia and inaction are our biggest impediments. B.C.’s long-term care system is failing its elder population. Our current situation is too serious and complex to justify continuing with piece-meal approaches to change. The money is available. We respectfully ask that the Ministry of Health consider championing this proposal.

Penny MacCourt, Ph.D., Chairperson, AARC BC