Bradley Centre long-term care facility at Chilliwack General Hospital on May 4, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

Bradley Centre long-term care facility at Chilliwack General Hospital on May 4, 2021. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)

OPINION: Chilliwack MLAs weigh in on the future of long-term care

It’s time to invest in more beds in Chilliwack and to replace the aging Bradley Centre

By Dan Coulter and Kelli Paddon

With a historic downtown core, thriving community and gorgeous surroundings, not to mention its proximity to Vancouver, it is no wonder that Chilliwack and other communities in the Fraser Valley are growing. This growth will have great benefits like increased diversity and new economic opportunities. With this growing population, though, will also come additional pressure on local facilities like long-term care (LTC) centres.

We want the people that love to live here to be able to stay for the rest of their lives.

The previous BC Liberal government grossly underfunded long-term care. By overcrowding seniors into outdated facilities, not providing the adequate funding for staff, neglecting buildings and equipment, and refusing to add sufficient new public long-term care spaces, the foundation of the sector became extremely fragile.

While our government has been working hard the past four years to improve this, when the pandemic hit the cracks and vulnerabilities in the system were exposed. We are now not only faced with the challenges of a growing population, but also of replacing outdated facilities and providing sufficient upgrades and supports for our senior populations and the workers that assist them. However, where there are cracks there is also room for light to shine through.

Here in Chilliwack, we know we have to do more for the Bradley Centre, which was the site of a COVID-19 outbreak in December of last year.

The Bradley Centre is a 90-bed facility attached to Chilliwack General Hospital. The building and facility are outdated, and local advocates have been calling for it to be replaced for a long time. The 90 residents are also all in multi-bed rooms and, as the pandemic taught us, this isn’t ideal for all seniors.

READ MORE: Fraser Health declares COVID outbreak over at Chilliwack’s Bradley Centre

Providing single-bed rooms in long-term care can have great benefits for residents, such as increased space and privacy and more one-on-one care. Additionally, single-bed rooms can help curb the spread of infectious disease to our vulnerable elderly populations and to staff.

Now that we are better aware of the vulnerabilities that folks in long-term care can face, we have an opportunity to learn from what has been illuminated and come back stronger after the devastation caused by the pandemic. We know that we need to modernize our understanding of best practices when it comes to long-term care.

Our government is making the protection of older generations a priority. The BC NDP are dedicated to addressing weaknesses in long-term care and are strengthening supports for seniors. Budget 2021, just announced on April 20, outlines the BC NDP’s plan to make life better for seniors in British Columbia.

We saw how quickly COVID-19 spread through long-term care facilities at the beginning of the pandemic before we were able to begin vaccinations. A lack of single-bed care rooms and challenges for the care staff at these facilities, such as being employed at multiple locations, presented difficulties in containing spread for residents and staff.

That’s why Budget 2021 lays out hundreds of millions of dollars in additional supports for health care workers and seniors. It will mean continuous screenings at all long-term care and assisted living facilities so that we can continue to keep both the elderly and our incredible healthcare workers safe. It outlines the Health Care Access Program, dedicated to hiring up to 3,000 more health care aides.

Additionally, the BC NDP 2021 Budget is dedicated to continuing to expand and update public long-term care facilities. Our government will be replacing approximately 2,850 beds in outdated facilities and adding 1,500 new beds across the province.

As elected MLAs for Chilliwack and Chilliwack-Kent, we want to make sure that the Bradley Centre and Chilliwack don’t get left behind in these commitments.

We want the best for our elderly population and want to support the folks who have been advocating for them for a long time. In the weeks to come, we will be meeting with local seniors’ groups, long-term care staff, community advocates and MLA Mable Elmore, the Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors’ Services and Long-Term Care, so that we can best advocate within government for funding to replace the Bradley Centre with additional spaces. Our goal is to add more care beds for our growing population and ensure there are single-bed rooms in a new facility with up-to-date equipment so that we can best support the Bradley Centre’s residents and our incredible healthcare workers.

To further boost the efforts to bring more public long-term care beds to Chilliwack, we’ve started a petition so that you can add your voice to this cause. We remain committed to fighting for better care for our seniors and look forward to hearing from you and consulting with local leaders and advocates in this sector as we go forward.

Dan Coulter is the MLA for Chilliwack and Kelli Paddon is the MLA for Chilliwack-Kent

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