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Access to physicians and health care costs remain big challenges in the north: BC Seniors Advocate

BC Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie is travelling to every health authority in the province during Seniors Week to celebrate the many contributions they make in our society.

However, Mackenzie highlighted that there are issues in the north around access and health care costs that are still outstanding.

During a stop in Williams Lake, she was made aware of the inadequacies of the Travel Assistance Program.

“The mileage reimbursement rate is 20 cents a kilometre and you get four dollars reimbursed for lunch. It’s not reflecting the economic reality of what it is costing people in the north and in the more rural parts of the interior to be able to access the kind of health care those of us in the city can get every day.”

“How do you create the capacity to have the specialists within closer proximity to the people who need their services when the population is spread out as it is in the north. Those are not easy to solve and some of those are not solvable but I think we could do a better job at supporting people to get to where the specialists care and where the physician care is.”

When asked about what her top priorities are for seniors as the pandemic continues to fade, Mackenzie noted on the top of her mind is the fixed or low-income seniors currently earn.

According to Mackenzie, the median income of BC Seniors is $32,000, while a third of our elderly population is living on the Guaranteed Income Supplement of $24,000 per year.

She believes the funding model needs to change as things such as the rising cost of food and expensive dental procedures are stretching seniors thin financially.

“There is no dental program for seniors in BC, there is no hearing aid or eyeglass program. If you have the resources or you happen to have a benefit plan that covers it you are not thinking about the seniors who are living on $24,000 a year. If they need bridge work done or a root canal then they have to come up with hundreds of dollars to pay for that and they simply don’t have that money. The rising costs we are experiencing around food are also impacting seniors.”

Mackezine is making a stop in Terrace today (Wednesday) as part of her tour. BC Seniors Week wraps up on Saturday (11th).

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