BC’s Ombudsperson – the pot calling the kettle black?

Ombudsperson takes 4 years to respond to complaint, says ‘no investigation’

BC’s Ombudsperson Kim Carter and her entourage were out in the Lower Mainland communities of Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Richmond and Surrey last week, urging people to tell her and her “team” all about their complaints and concerns.

Kim Carter calls these sojourns into the British Columbia hinterland,“mobile intakes”.

At the end of the week, Ms. Carter took time to do a few media interviews. During these interviews, Kim Carter revealed that the most common complaints her Office receives about government agencies and other organizations her Office oversees are:

  • “Unreasonable delay” by public agencies and organizations in responding to complaints, and
  • “No good, clear explanation” for the concerns brought forth in complaints.

CBC-BC Radio morning show hosts in Vancouver and Victoria, Rick Cluff and Gregor Craigie, both asked Kim Carter about the recent appointment of a Seniors’ Advocate for British Columbia. The BC government decided to make the Seniors’ Advocate office part of the Ministry of Health, and stipulated that the Seniors’ Advocate would not investigate individual cases.

Kim Carter commented that since the new Seniors’ Advocate would not be permitted to investigate individual cases, “…there will still be a very active role for our Office (to take seniors’ care complaints) and we’ll be very much involved with seniors issues because we do have that power.” [interview starts at the 8:30 mark of the podcast]. In other words, her Office is the only place complaints about seniors’ health care in BC can be brought for investigation, once the complainant has exhausted the avenues available within the organization or agency alleged of wrong doing.

But “active” role is not what comes to many complainants’ minds when they think of BC’s Ombudsperson Office.

In fact, Seniors at Risk has learned that the BC’s Ombudsperson Office has a reputation far worse than many of the agencies it oversees, and particularly when it comes to:

  • unreasonable delays
  • no good, clear explanation
  • failure to investigate cases

Here’s one of several examples of Ombudsperson Office neglect that has been brought to Seniors of Risk’s attention recently.

Unreasonable Delays 

In August 2008, Rita McDonnell of Surrey, BC submitted a complaint to the Ombudsperson regarding the care received by her 68-year-old father, Gary Davis while in hospital.

She received a response from the Ombudsperson Office on December 21, 2012. Yes – more than four years later.

In the meantime, Gary Davis had died in a publicly funded long-term-care facility in July 2009 after developing severe bedsores and hospital-acquired infections from inadequate care that necessitated amputation of his legs, and enduring rough treatment by nursing staff.

Failure to Investigate

The letter from the Ombudsperson’s Manager of System Review, Carly Hyman, said,  (more…)

Nurses “inundated with work”, and overflowing toilets

We continue with our posts from Stella as she struggles to protect her father Charlie who “lives”, as so many elderly people now do, in an “extended care wing” of a British Columbia hospital.
 

Stella Writes…

My father remains on the senior’s ward of a hospital here in BC, despite my efforts to get him out.  Yesterday I found him still without his bottom teeth.  Two weeks ago staff told me they were taken away because he has a canker sore in his mouth.  I couldn’t see the sore then and I couldn’t see any sore yesterday.  Apparently they are rinsing his mouth with salt water twice a day or at least that’s what I am told.

I went to look for a nurse to see if Dad could have his teeth back.

I waited 20 minutes for the new Nurse Leader to finish training someone on the computer, but apparently my timing wasn’t good.  She told me she was “inundated with work” and couldn’t help me.  I counted 12 health care workers standing around the front desk, most of them more than 60 feet from any actual patients.

His former Nurse Leader (more…)

Institutions ‘named and shamed’ for elder abuse – a last resort of ombudsman, media

Canadian banks and financial companies mistreat seniors and ignore laws, abetted by a negligent government

 

The growing epidemic of institutional elder abuse is not limited to nursing homes, hospitals and health authorities. The banking industry also appears to be mistreating and taking advantage of seniors. Banks?!  Yes, banks.

Most senior citizens are customers, many are long-time and very loyal customers of the banking institutions they patronize, and all are citizens of Canada. It is their hard earned money that has made Canadian banks what they are today. Yet, our elders are frequently being treated with callous disrespect.

We are concerned with the evidence that banks and financial institutions are imposing their own rules, over and above the law of the land, ignoring legal documents such as power of attorney papers drawn up by lawyers, and creating desperate circumstances for seniors.

Here are three stories that surfaced in the media recently, perhaps the tip of a very chilling iceberg.

  • Royal Bank (RBC) branch in Vancouver refused to cash the pension cheques of a 94-year-old disabled and housebound woman for seven months. This bank ignored the Power of Attorney granted by their customer to her daughter. The daughter tried in vain to persuade the bank to relent but they would not budge… until she called the media. Then, three bank staff suddenly found their feet and made a visit to the elderly woman’s house to confirm the power of attorney (something that was not necessary to do in the first place, but presumably was done so the bank could save face).

“I took the power of attorney papers in. They were photocopied and sent to the [RBC] head office in Toronto,” said (daughter Linda) Graham. “Those were turned down as well because they weren’t explicit enough.” CBC, Go Public

  • Staff at a Toronto Scotiabank branch reportedly refused to accept the power of attorney of a dying woman (featured in same CBC story, 2nd incident). The bank insisted that she, not her designated POA, come to the branch in person. When her family drove her to the bank branch, they asked staff to come out to the parking lot to meet with the 73-year-old woman who was weeks away from dying of cancer and unable to be transported anywhere easily. The family got a “flat-out refusal” from bank staff. Her family was forced to wheel the ailing woman, swollen with painful lymphoma, into the bank on a commode chair. All this, while the bank rejected the Power of Attorney document that had been properly executed by the woman’s lawyer. Scotiabank refused to comment, citing privacy – even though the woman was by then deceased.
  • And, in a rare move, an Ombudsman publicly ‘named and shamed’ W.H. Stuart & Associates, a mutual fund dealer, for refusing to abide by a ruling that the firm pay $41,066 to an 82-year-old couple for failing to inform them of the real, and risky, nature of their investment, and for the loss of their life savings due to the firm’s mismanagement.

Which ombudsman you may ask? One you may never have heard of, but which might, one day, save your bacon (and your nest egg) – the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments. “OBSI has taken several significant and extraordinary steps to resolve this and certain other complaints that could not be resolved before we’ve resorted to announcing a refusal to compensate.”

The OBSI is Canada’s national independent dispute resolution service for consumers and small businesses that have a complaint they can’t resolve with their banking services or investment firm. It operates as a free alternative to the prohibitively expensive legal system. Read more about the OBSI below.

The Canadian banks that once again posted record profits in the last fiscal quarter are the same banks that are treating senior citizens with breathtaking disrespect and utter disregard for the law.

So what is going on with banks? More importantly, why is it going on, and why is it being permitted by our governments and our elected representatives?

One of the missions of Seniors at Risk is to inform senior citizens and their loved ones of potential problems they may encounter at the hands of our elected officials, civil servants, and public agencies and authorities, as well as the legal system and (more…)

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