Announcement B.C. Seniors Advocate Appointed

B.C. appoints Seniors Care Advocate

Ambulance Service Restored April 1, 2014

N.B. drops ambulance service fees
Conservative government fulfills one of its key 2010 election promising by eliminating fees
Chris Morris  Legislature Bureau

   FREDERICTON – The Tory government is acting on one of its key promises from the 2010 election campaign and is waiving ambulance fees for people who have had to dig into their own pockets to pay the $130 charge.

   Health Minister Ted Flemming announced yesterday the elimination of the ambulance fee for people not already covered by government assistance or private insurance means the long-standing election commitment finally is fulfilled.   The change will take effect on April 1.

   “You can’t do everything on day one – you have to have priorities,” Flemming said when asked why the government waited until near the end of its mandate to act on the ambulance fee promise.  “Whether you did it in year four, year three or year two … you could chase around like that until the cows come home. It’s done. It’s a platform commitment and it has been honoured. Check the box, commitment met, and that’s what is important.”

   Opposition Liberal health critic Don Arseneault said he believes the ambulance fee decision is politically motivated. He said the change represents a loss in revenue at a time when nurses and other health-care professionals are being let go to save money.   “Ever since they started to see the light of the coming election day, they have been spending like drunken sailors,” Arseneault said of the Tories, noting that the provincial election now is just seven months away.

   “There is a cost to removing those fees. … At a time when he is sending nurses and other health-care professionals home, I find it irresponsible.”
   Flemming said the cost will be minimal – probably about $600,000.   He said about 70 per cent of New Brunswickers have private insurance and most of the benefits include ambulance coverage. In addition, the poor and the elderly in New Brunswick also are covered for ambulances by government programs.  “So we are targeting the same group of people we are targeting in our prescription drug plan – that group of New Brunswickers who don’t have access,” Flemming said.

  “If we eliminated ambulance fees in their entirety, that would be $6 million. But this way, the target group represents about $600,000 in lost revenue to Ambulance New Brunswick, which is not a lot in comparison to the big picture.”  He said the new ambulance fee policy means no New Brunswicker will have to use his or her own funds to pay for an ambulance ride. In the past, there have been concerns that if the government started paying for more ambulance fees, private insurers would be tempted to drop the benefit from their packages.

   Flemming said the government studied that possibility and believes the risk is minimal. He said it would represent a tiny saving for insurance companies and probably would not merit the administrative costs of changing.  “All of our research shows that it would be insignificant and not worth doing,” he said.
   But Arseneault said he doesn’t trust the minister’s calculations and he fears the insurance companies will alter their benefits. If that happens, he said, dropping ambulance fees could end up costing several million dollars. “We are going to be one of the only jurisdictions in Canada without ambulance fees,” he said.

  New Brunswick Liberals imposed the $130 fee for ambulance service in 2009, arguing that some people were using ambulances like a free taxi to get themselves to the hospital.  Ambulance New Brunswick reported that ambulance rides dropped by 15,000, or 14 per cent, just one year after introducing the fee. The elimination of the fee was a commitment in the Progressive Conservatives’ 2010 election platform.
   “To think that a senior has to make a decision whether they call an ambulance or not, that could be the decision between life and death, ”David Alward said in the lead up to the election.  “That’s why we believe it’s important to remove the fee.”
   Ambulance New Brunswick billed $4.4 million in fees for ambulance trips in 2012.
   Of that, the government collected $3.5 million.  New Brunswick’s provincial ambulance service, which has been operating since December 2007, has responded to about 95,000 calls on average in each of the past two years, figures that include both 911 emergency calls and inter-facility patient transfers.

Seniors ejected after Marilyn's Country Haven ordered closed Residents of Stewiacke care home sent to emergency room, other homes and family CBC News Posted: Feb 20, 2014 6:38 PM AT Last Updated: Feb 20, 2014 7:57 PM AT

Fire Officials shut seniors home February 19, 2014

 Marilyn’s Country Haven for Seniors on Alton Road near near Stewiacke was closed Wednesday over safety concerns. (FACEBOOK)

Local Seniors Residences meet Sprinkler Codes - Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 06:00 am | BY TIM LASIUTA

But there are renewed calls to improve regulations for residences built before 1990

Seniors’ home safety worries raised Times & Transcript January 24, 2014

CRAIG BABSTOCK Times & Transcript
January 24, 2014
The tragic fire at a senior citizens’ residence in Quebec early Thursday morning has a New Brunswick seniors’ organization worried that could happen in this province.
“We can’t wait for something like that to happen here,” says Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors’ and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights. “I’m very fearful of that.”
The fire occurred in the village of L’Isle-Verte, destroying a large portion of the home. Five people were confirmed dead by Friday afternoon with as many as 30 other people likely killed.
The cause is not yet known, but what is known is that the facility did not have sprinklers all through the building. The older parts of the home did not have sprinklers, while the section built in 2002 did have sprinklers.
The section with sprinklers withstood the blaze much better than the section without.
In New Brunswick, the Fire Marshal determines the standards for these kinds of facilities. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Molly Cormier says New Brunswick’s 65 nursing homes all have sprinkler systems and fire evacuation plans and are inspected annually by the Department of Public Safety as part of their operating licence.
Nursing homes are for people who are medically stable but need around the clock nursing care.
Cormier says since 1997, all new special care homes, as well as existing special care homes that have major renovations or a change of licence, have been required to have sprinkler systems. This requirement did not exist prior to 1997 so homes built before then may or may not have a sprinkler system.
“Regardless, all special care homes are required to have a fire safety and evacuation plan, and a smoke detector/alarm,” says the spokeswoman.
Special care homes are a step down in the level of care when compared to nursing homes. They are for people who are generally mobile but require the availability of supervision/assistance on a twenty-four hour basis.
Cassista says the thought that not every seniors facility has sprinklers is a concern.
“It’s alarming to me,” she says. “I believe every home that’s going to care for elderly people should have fire standards up to date and should put in sprinklers.”
Cassista, who is also Deputy Mayor of Riverview, says the tragedy in Quebec will likely make fire safety a big topic of conversation going forward.
When asked if the Department of Public Safety is considering any changes to policy after the Quebec fire, Cormier says no matter where a tragedy occurs, it’s only natural for people to ask questions about safety and security in their own community.
“In New Brunswick, we follow national fire and building codes and already have requirements in place related to annual inspection, fire safety and evacuation planning, fire drills, and smoke detectors/alarms,” says the spokeswoman.
“We would have to carefully understand the ramifications of changing those requirements. Any changes would be done in consultation with Public Safety, Social Development, seniors and their families, and the operators of special care homes.”

NB Power offers help with heat bills Times & Transcript January 10, 2014

Cecile Cassista
Cole Hobson Times & Transcript
While chilly winter temperatures well below freezing continue to wreak havoc for New Brunswickers in terms of higher power bills, the province’s energy utility said anyone who is struggling to make ends meet should contact them to find a solution.

“We would hope they would call us at the start and not once they get too far behind that it’s much harder to catch up,” said Julie MacNair, a Shediac-based supervisor with customer care for NB Power. “For us that’s really, really important and what we focus on is making successful arrangements, case by case, and really taking the time to hear what their situation is, what they are struggling with and being able to provide each customer what is needed for them to be successful. That’s what we want as well is for them to be able to manage and find solutions.”

MacNair said NB Power is more than willing to work out different solutions for customers and can also give them a host of resources — from ways to help lower their power bill, to numbers for social assistance and aid programs they might qualify for in order to help with the costs.

As an example, MacNair said just yesterday she dealt with a woman whose partner had run into health issues which were creating some unforeseen expenses.

MacNair was able to suggest to this particular customer that plastic over the windows might help, as her home wasn’t incredibly insulated.

She said the average power bill is 60 per cent heating, 20 per cent appliances and the other 20 per cent is hot water.

“The bigger bang for your buck is going to be insulation and making sure your house is well insulated,”she said.

In addition, MacNair was able to recommend the phone numbers for some assistance programs the customer might qualify for.

“There’s also credit counselling that we can provide a phone number too,” she said. “We often ask if a family member can help, a friend or family member. We also go through consumption, because we feel that’s very important that they understand that maybe they have a role to play in the sense that they can have an impact on their consumption. We try to educate them there as well.”

For customers who are in good standing without arrears, but have difficulty paying in the winter months, equalized billing — paying the same averaged bill amount each month then being either reimbursed or debited the difference at year end — is also an option that can be explored.

In addition to the frigid temperatures sending bills soaring, a 2010 freeze on power rate increases was lifted last year as NB Power increased rates by two per cent on Oct. 1, 2013. However, the change accounts for roughly a $3 increase on the monthly power bill of the average New Brunswick family.

Despite the help NB Power is willing to offer, an advocate for senior citizens suggests soaring winter power bills remain a big issue for certain segments of the population.

Cecile Cassista is a Riverview town councillor and also executive director of the Coalition for Seniors’ and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, She said even personally she has seen her power bills sky rocket recently.
“I’m really concerned about what the heating bill is going to be when it comes in this month. And can you imagine what impact this will have on seniors who have low income?” she said. “Because low-income seniors, they like to keep warm, they like lots of heat and they are going to forgo other goals, good quality food, in order to keep warm. It’s a huge concern.”

Cassita would like to see more power rate subsidy for the province’s most vulnerable and noted many seniors don’t even realize what options there are available to them for help on their bills.
An example is the province’s Home Energy Assistance program, which gives a one-time payment of $100 to New Brunswick families who have a total family income of under $28,000.

“Many seniors last year I have to tell you missed out on that opportunity,” she said.
Increased power bills also has a trickle-down effect into the region’s food banks, where Food Depot Alimentaire’s managing director said they typically see a 15 to 20 per cent usage increase in January, February and March.

“First of all the food banks are coming in to us and asking us for more food because the people are already, after the Christmas rush of course, they’ve already been asking them for their food for the first part of January. I’m sure they are going to be asking the next two or three weeks because they’re not going to have any money left over.”

Gould said a good Christmas push has them able to meet the increased demand at the moment, but he believes social assistance programs should be further tweaked for more support during winter months.
“It’s been going on for years but yet somebody has to really look at that very carefully because the demand is there on the working poor and the working poor that makes $300 a week just can’t cut it,” he said.

“Everybody is going to say that it’s the best we can do, but you have to say that they are not adequate. Let’s face it, the people are affected with big, big power bills in the winter months, it’s just not enough. I’m not saying they aren’t doing their best, I guess they have a budget to follow, but still, we can always do more.”
Gould said the cold weather also has a negative impact on FDA’s bottom line and ability to service the over 20 food banks in the region, as they are hit with increased fuel and heating costs.

“Let’s just hope we get through this cold and we get warmer temperatures to bring it down a bit,” he said.
Anyone who is or might eventually have issues paying their power bill is asked to contact NB Power by phone at 1-800-663-6272 or by email at General information can also be requested through and the utility’s website at also provides tips and advice for reducing your power bill.

Meanwhile, application forms for the 2014 benefit under the Home Energy Assistance Program are now available at Service New Brunswick centres and online at or at The $100 subsidy is available for those families who have a combined income of under $28,000.
For more information, call the New Brunswick Department of Finance at 1-800-669-7070, Monday to Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.

acadie nouvelle Coaliton Annual meeting November 22, 2013 Waiting lists getting worse in nursing homes and hospitals