06/07/2013 03:16 EDT | Updated 08/07/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. Health Authority Blasted For Wheelchair User Fee

The Fraser Health Authority is being severely criticized for a new policy imposing a user fee on elderly long-term care patients requiring wheelchairs.

Delta South Independent MLA Vicki Huntington says she is dismayed over the $25 monthly fee charged for wheelchairs or wheelchair cushions.

“We’ve all observed steadily-rising user fees in the health care system causing undue hardship on our most vulnerable,” Huntington said in a written release.

“The latest decision by Fraser Health to charge a $25 monthly fee for wheelchairs and wheelchair cushions has me speechless. It’s as if Fraser Health feels immobilizing the elderly to their beds is acceptable, while basic mobility rights are an elective service of our healthcare system.”

She notes the fee, which adds up to $300 a year, may not seem like much but to someone on a fixed income it can pose a considerable hardship.

The fee is due to take effect on Sept. 1, but Huntington urges the health authority to cancel the levy and meet with her to discuss other ways to raise funds.

Fee coming to Coastal Health

Vancouver Coastal Health is implementing a similar fee, also effective Sept. 1, at the nine care homes in the public system that are directly owned and operated by the health authority.

VCH spokesman Gavin Wilson says those facilities have an aging fleet, and the money would go directly towards repairs and replacements.

He said the other 27 care homes funded by Vancouver Coastal Health but operated under contract have always had the ability to charge for wheelchairs as they see fit.

Wilson says an audit found those facilities charge $35 per month on average. He added no one will go without a wheelchair if they can't afford to pay.

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