Long-term beds open up to more veterans

March 12, 2019 by Sharon Adams

Veterans Affairs Canada has widened eligibility for long-term care beds.

Where once there were long wait lists for VAC contract beds, there are now vacancies due to the decline in number of Second World War and Korean War veterans.

VAC has entered into agreements with 10 long-term care facilities, former veterans’ hospitals across the country, widening eligibility in many cases to low-income Second World War veterans who served at least one year in Canada, Canadian Armed Forces veterans and Allied veterans.

“This decision moves beds that are being underused into a category that will increase access for more veterans, while still keeping a proportional number available for Second World War and Korean veterans,” said then-Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O’Regan, following the announcement at Halifax’s Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial Building.

The minister indicated that while this would help alleviate some bottlenecks and support some veterans now, VAC will continue to work with provincial health-care systems. “This is not the end of the discussion about long-term care,” he said.  Discussions with a further eight facilities continue.

“We have confirmed that current practice at Caribou Memorial Veterans Pavilion in St. John’s and at the Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg is to admit all veterans as well as spouses of veterans on a preferred basis,” VAC spokesperson Emily Gauthier said. “As such, formal agreements with these facilities are not required.”

More than 5,000 veterans are in long-term care facilities in communities throughout Canada.

The department provided about $237 million in financial support in 2017-18 for beds in two settings, either in community facilities with beds that provide nursing-home care to veterans as well as other provincial residents or in contract beds in community facilities that have beds designated as priority-access for eligible veterans.

In a 2017 report, the veterans ombudsman called for VAC to merge the Veterans Independence Program and the Long-Term Care Program so that access need be determined only once. 

“We know that (regulations) are not always flexible enough to address every veteran’s unique situation,” said Gauthier. “We are reviewing the regulations to allow more flexibility in accessing long-term care beds.”

  • Kimberley Lowrie

    What VAC isn’t saying is that the “priority beds” or “contract beds” that are presented as a guarantee to our WW II and Korean Veterans are only given to Veterans when they meet provincial requirements and are placed on provincial wait lists. This means a Veteran may qualify under VAC legislation but won’t actually get a bed under provincial legislation, which is given priority in setting qualifications and monitoring wait lists in all but, I believe, two establishments (one in Halifax and one in Ontario). If VAC doesn’t have a Veteran in the bed, the bed can be used by the provincial government, which relieves VAC of the fees for that bed and a Veteran requiring the bed will be placed on the wait list until another bed opens up. The priority access is only on paper. The federal government has been “widening the acceptance to contract beds” for Canadian Forces Veterans (also called Modern Day Veterans) for years. This isn’t actually new. Usually it is a small number of beds and there is a priority system for who VAC funds as well, so telling the public that contract beds are opening for more classes of Veterans doesn’t mean as much as it appears when all of the other factors are taken into consideration. Again, it looks good on paper. We have had Veterans in long-term facilities as recently as 2014 fighting for real food—many long-term care facilities went to re-thermalized food (reheated after arriving from a centralized station where it is made and frozen). Understaffing and staff not trained as required has lead to serious problems.

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