When it comes to licensing infractions, Northern Health (NH) is leading the way.
In 2019 the healthcare provider had 41 total facility inspections with 142 licensing infractions for an overall rate of 119.6 infractions per 1,000 beds.
It’s a rate 278 per cent higher than any other health region in the Province, with Interior Health coming in a distant second at 43 infractions per 1,000 beds.
Provincially, it’s 311 per cent higher than B.C.’s average of 38.4 infractions.
The findings come from the Office of the Seniors Advocate (OSA) Quick Facts Directory (QFD), an annual report that provides information on all publicly funded long-term care homes in British Columbia.
Long-term care facilities in B.C. are regulated and licensed under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act or the Hospital Act, regardless of funding. The Health Authority Community Care Facility Licensing programs issue licences and conduct inspections to ensure facilities are providing safe care to residents.
While licensing infractions can refer to any number of things contrary to those acts, the most common infractions across the province related to care and supervision (21 per cent), records and reporting (19 per cent), the physical environment (19 per cent), and staffing (13 per cent).
The health region also led the province in substantiated complaint rates, with 100 per cent of Northern Health’s five complaints made and reviewed by its licensing offices being deemed substantiated.
This is, again, just under three times higher than the provincial average of 36 per cent.
The report also notes NH does not report complaints for facilities licensed under the Hospital Act.
In an emailed response communications officer with Northern Health Eryn Collins told The Interior News the healthcare provider is committed to continually improving the care it provides seniors.
“Northern Health’s focus is on improving supports in the community to support seniors in remaining independent as long as possible, as our seniors are clear they want to age in place/live in their homes with support. These supports are aimed at keeping seniors in their home environments as long as possible, or in other accessible living environments, potentially including long term care.”
In the email Collins added Northern Health’s smaller number of long-term care facilities, and smaller facilities due to geography and population can make the ‘complaints per thousand beds’ for the region appear disproportionately high.
She said that, interpreted another way, NH facilities average approximately 3.3 infractions per inspection — comparable to that of other health regions.
“That said, and as the OSA report indicates, many infractions can be directly linked to staffing challenges, which the North has had and continues to experience. Northern Health has developed a robust Human Resource Plan to support recruitment to current vacancies and new positions in long-term care. We are also working closely with the Ministry of Health with respect to recruitment and retention of staff in long-term care settings, such as care aides.”
“It’s also very important to note that this data reflects only complaints to licensing; there are many other channels through which concerns can be raised.”
While the healthcare provider might not have fared so well in some areas, in others it did quite well.
Northern Health only had 105 reportable incidents from 2018-2019, a rate of 8.8 reportable incidents per 100 beds.
That’s just over half the provincial average of 15.8, however it’s down from a rate of 16.2 for 2017-2018.
The health region also leads the pack in terms of meeting provincial guidelines for direct care hours (DCH), with 100 per cent of long-term care facilities in the region meeting requirements.
DCH refer to hours of direct care between patients and nursing staff, care aides, or allied health care workers, such as physical, occupational or recreational therapists, speech language pathologists, social workers and dietitians. Guidelines set by the Ministry of Health state residents in long-term facilities should receive 3.36 DCH daily.
At 3.47 DCH, Northern Health was the only region to achieve or exceed those recommendations. The provincial average was 3.25 DCH per long-term care facility.