No need to charge seniors for wheelchairs

Charging fees to seniors in care homes is yet another drift from the idea of socialized medicine.

Editor: The recent announcement (The Times, June 11) by Fraser Health, and now by Coastal Health, that they intend to charge a $25 per month wheelchair user fee to long term care patients who need wheelchairs is appalling.

Both Fraser and Coastal have said that the fee will go toward “repair and replacement” of their “aging fleet.” There are a few things that are not being considered, however.

First, approximately half of the damage done to wheelchairs is done by health care staff. Wheelchairs are often considered to be disposable, and their care is not a priority.

Then there is the fact that we are mandated to obtain our health care in a socialized system, which means that it is incumbent upon the governments involved to provide the best possible care at no additional cost.

Some provincial governments already charge an additional health care “fee” or “levy” (nonsense — a tax is a tax), which flies directly in the face of the original mandate. Charging still another fee, payable for the most part by people who cannot (or can barely) afford it, is just another tax grab.

The argument that the fee will be waived for those who “cannot afford it” is not good enough. Many who truly cannot afford it will pay regardless, based on pride, forcing them to cut back on other things.

The only truly fair way to handle the issue is for hospitals and institutions who own wheelchairs to pay for their care and maintenance, rather than passing on those costs to their patients. Is the next step to charge for the maintenance of their beds or rental for an operating room table?

They need to educate their staff about proper care of wheelchairs to reduce maintenance costs that are the result of negligence. In long term care, they already pay a monthly fee for their care, which is about 70 per cent of their income, as I recall. Now these health authorities want them to pay more.

Individuals who own their own wheelchairs should, of course, pay for their own repairs and maintenance and warranty service to protect their warranties. Perhaps they could choose to pay the hospital biomedical engineers for the repairs and maintenance, or use the services of the original company where they obtained the wheelchair.

We pay enough taxes (or “fees” or “levies”) in British Columbia already. If Fraser Health and Coastal Health are permitted to charge this fee, what will be the next charge we will face?

We are drifting farther and farther away from the original health care mandate, yet our taxes remain high and the fees keep on climbing. It has to stop.

 

Zosia Ettenberg,

Langley