Thanks to a lump of coal from the Liberals this holiday season, residents in long-term care facilities in the Yukon are now paying more user fees.
On December 17, the Liberal government quietly snuck through a new policy to increase fees on seniors at these facilities starting on January 1. These rate hikes equate to roughly a $2,000 increase per year on some of the territory’s most vulnerable.
Residents on fixed monthly incomes are impacted the most, and the increase is adding stress to those who call such facilities their home.
Usually when rental rates go up in private sector housing, by law, three months’ notice is required. The Liberals only quietly, and without a public notice, issued this new policy a mere 14 days before it was to take effect. The Minister claimed in the Legislative Assembly, residents were given two months’ notice —still short of the three months required by private-sector property owners.
Regardless, it is clear that the Liberals are disrespecting seniors by significantly increasing long-term care rates on them over the holiday season and during a pandemic.
Here is the minister’s response when questioned in the assembly on December 21:
Question re: Seniors’ costs for long-term care and camping fees
Ms. McLeod: Last Thursday — a week before Christmas — the Liberals quietly passed an order-in-council that raised the rates for Yukoners living in long-term care. Starting in a few weeks, the daily rate for long-term care facilities in the territory will go from $35 to $40. While an extra $5 per night might not seem like much, that works out to an extra $150 over 30 days. They introduced a new monthly rate of $1,217.
So, Mr. Speaker, can the minister explain why the Liberals are hiking long-term care fees just before Christmas?
Hon. Ms. Frost: With regard to the care fees for our seniors, what I can advise is that we still have the lowest rates in the country. We provide services to seniors 24 hours a day. We have nurses on staff. We have direct access to physicians. We have care facilities that allow us to provide essential services and necessary supports.
With regard to the Putting People First recommendations — one of the recommendations from the Putting People First report was to look at and assess the long-term care facilities. We have done that and one of the recommendations out of that was to look at ensuring that we provide all the supports that are required for seniors. At the same time, we need to balance the supports and ensure that we have long term — that the fees of course need to become aligned with the services — appreciating that we still have the lowest rates in the country. The $5 rate increase will come into effect in January, not before Christmas.
Ms. McLeod: When private sector landlords impose a rent increase, they are required by law to give three months’ notice to the tenant. The order-in-council was issued on December 17, with the increase taking effect on January 1. That’s just 14 days’ notice, Mr. Speaker. We have yet to even see a public announcement about this rate increase. It seems like the Liberals were hoping that this lump of coal would go unnoticed.
Why did the Liberals wait until the week before Christmas to announce this rate increase for seniors and residents in long-term care?
Hon. Ms. Frost: The notice didn’t just go out. The notice went out in the beginning of November — the first of November, in fact. The new rate starts in January. The monthly rate was requested by the seniors. For the record, the standard monthly rate, as was previously noted, was not something that was working for the seniors. Now there is an average rate that was requested by the seniors.
The note from the member opposite — I want to just suggest to the member opposite that we should perhaps have a look at the whole package and what is encompassed in the $35. It covers all seniors’ three meals a day. It covers medical supports and all essential critical supports that a senior might require during their time and their stay in the long-term care facilities.
I would suggest that, if there are any specific concerns from seniors, we would be happy to have a talk with the families. Of course — as I indicated — we certainly do not want to pose any hardships on any of our seniors; however, it is still the lowest rate in the country and we worked directly with the residents to ensure that we took measures that they’ve requested which is the monthly rates.
Ms. McLeod: As we know, the majority of long-term care residents are seniors and many of them are on fixed incomes. Any increase in their monthly expenses affects them.
This announcement is on the heels of the Liberals’ increase of camping fees for seniors as well. At least the Liberals gave the seniors a year’s notice on the camping fees. It seems like the Liberals are waging a war on the pocketbooks of seniors, Mr. Speaker.
Why are the Liberals targeting seniors for all of their rate increases?
Hon. Ms. Frost: I would say that $40 a day is one of the lowest rates in the country — appreciating that the long-term care homes are publicly subsidized services and that pressure on seniors and forcing seniors to pay the full amount is not appropriate — I certainly acknowledge that.
The aging-in-place submission that the seniors put together — over 1,200 seniors submitted. Their proposals and recommendations and the augmentation of services and supports to seniors across the Yukon — I think that has provided many opportunities for us to work with seniors to ease their burden — the home first initiatives, working on the re-enablement unit at the Thomson Centre, ensuring that we have the necessary supports through Yukon Housing Corporation to make alterations and adjustments to their homes so they can stay at home longer and not go into a long-term care home. We have provided many, many other alternative supports in terms of specialized supports and services that we brought into the communities. We have palliative care now in all of our communities to allow seniors to age well at home — of course, end-of-life services, home supports in our communities — so lots of supports to seniors in all of our communities.