Leaders debate: Carole James whacks Gordon Campbell on seniors care

In today's televised leaders debate, NDP Leader Carole James gave B.C. Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell a rough ride over his  government's treatment of seniors.  

Campbell triggered James's response after he said his government wants to keep seniors in their homes, which is why there is more home-care service.

“I can’t believe I heard Mr. Campbell actually say that they work to keep seniors in their own home," James  said.  "I have to tell you I remember the Albo family story every single day in this job. That was a senior citizen couple who were separated in the last few days, it turned out, of their lives."

Fannie and Alfie Albo were a Trail couple who were separated, and both died not long afterward.

James also promised that an NDP government would create 3,000 new long-term care beds in its first term, and open 300 immediately in facilities closed during the B.C. Liberals' term in office.

"My plan puts forward investments in health care that use both innovation and supports in the public health care system—1,000 new nurses to make sure that we actually start getting at those wait lists," James said.

Campbell claimed that his government has made real progress in tackling wait lists. "We’ve seen real improvements, for example a reduction in wait times for knee surgery of 33 percent, for hip surgeries of 40 percent, for cardiac surgeries of 41 percent," he said.

He also claimed that the B.C. Liberals met their 2005 promise of adding 5,000 intermediate and long-term care beds. "On top of that, we’ve improved the home care, the seniors’ facilities, so there is 6,500 additional of those—12,000-plus additional beds,"  Campbell said.  

James questioned this in blunt terms. "I heard Mr. Campbell say that they built the 5,000 long-term care beds," she said.  "Well, his own health minister announced last week that in fact, they’ve only built 800 long-term care beds. So I would like to ask Mr. Campbell, is his health minister telling the truth or are you?"

Campbell replied: “No, you’re not. I think the fact of the matter is we’ve done 5,896 intermediate and long-term care beds just as we committed in 2005."

Before  the 2001 election, the B.C. Liberals promised 5,000 long-term care beds. Last month, a Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study  reported that under the B.C. Liberals, 3,589 net new beds were built, leaving a shortage of 1,411 beds.

There  were 4,393 assisted living beds and a reduction in  804 residential beds, resulting in the net figure of 3,589 new beds. Assisted living beds provide lower levels of service.