06/07/2013 06:30 EDT | Updated 08/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Nursing Home Wheelchair Fee Irks BC Nurses

VANCOUVER - B.C. Nurses are blasting Vancouver-area health authorities for a decision to charge nursing home residents $25 a month to use a wheelchair.

Independent MLA Vicki Huntington brought the charge to light earlier this week, saying she's speechless over the hike that is an indignity and causing stress for people.

Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health authorities introduced the charge at the end of last month, with Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma saying there are hardship waivers for people who can't afford the fee.

Juma says the fee is to maintain the wheelchairs.

But nurses union president Debra McPherson said in a release Friday that wheelchairs are an essential service and it's disgraceful for the health authorities to force seniors to beg for charity.

McPherson notes the health authorities have said people with disabilities will be exempt from the fee, but she argues anyone who needs to use a wheelchair is by definition disabled.

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