A health-care worker in Merritt, B.C., is raising concerns over a policy that she says discriminates against some elderly wheelchair users in long-term care in the province.
Lindsay Fehr, a rehabilitation assistant who works in a long-term care facility, says the current B.C. basic wheelchair benefit only covers a standard wheelchair, which excludes a number of people who do not fit that criteria.
“If you do not meet that model, like you happen to be tall, you happen to have had a stroke that left you unable to move, any number of things, you are required to pay for your wheelchair,” Fehr said.
Fehr said the cost of a wheelchair can range between a few hundred dollars to many thousands for specialized wheelchairs, which can be a prohibitive cost for some seniors and families.
If the resident cannot afford the cost of a wheelchair, and the rehabilitation department cannot provide an alternate safe seating option, then they are usually confined to bed, she added.
“The number of seniors that we are talking about who are directly affected by this policy as it stands now, is actually a very, very small percentage. But they are our poorest, weakest, most ill members of our society,” she said.
“And we’re saying to them, if you can’t afford a wheelchair, you’re staying in bed.”
Fehr first contacted her local MLA Jackie Tegart and B.C. senior’s advocate Isobel Mackenzie to help change the policy.
Tegart has sent two letters on behalf of Fehr to the Ministry of Health about the policy which she describes as a “discriminatory and problematic.” Mackenzie, too, wrote a letter saying she would speak to representatives from the Ministry of Health about the policy.
Fehr says a lack of response from the ministry spurred her to then file the human rights complaint.
“I get that we have some bigger fish to fry right now on the health-care front,” Fehr said. “However, this is something that could be very easily changed.”
CBC News reached out to the Ministry of Health. While the ministry was unable to provide a spokesperson to speak about the issue, it said it was currently reviewing the policy.