B.C. ombudsman Kim Carter is an optimist.
"Therefore, I can tell you the glass is one-quarter full," when it comes to the provincial government responding to the 176 recommendations in the ombudsman's The Best of Care: Getting It Right for Seniors in British Columbia report, Carter told a crowd in Kelowna Tuesday.
"A lot more can be done at not much cost."
Carter was the guest speaker at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Okanagan meeting at the Kelowna Senior Citizens Association branch on Richter Street.
The Office of the Ombudsman put out the second part of its seniors report in February 2012. Last month, the provincial government responded with seniors advocate legislation that included new measures to improve standards for home, community, home support, assisted living and residential care.
While horror stories about seniors falling in their care rooms and not being discovered for days make news, the reality is the system runs efficiently and compassionately the majority of the time.
But there's always room for improvement.
Most complaints by seniors, or family and friends on their behalf, cover the gamut from concerns over Pharmacare, Medical Services Plan and driving, to unfairness and mistreatment in hospital, home or community care and assisted living.
"We always urge people to try to sort it out with the specific agency involved first," said Carter, who is an officer of the legislature, but is independent of government and political parties.
"We want you to come to the Office of the Ombudsman as a last resort."
If efforts to settle the matter with the responsible agency don't go well, the ombudsman's office can investigate whether the agency followed the rules and the person was treated fairly.
Sometimes it's found the agency did follow the rules, but the ombudsman determines the rules are unclear, unfair or outdated and then recommends policies be revamped for the better.
Outcomes, too, run the gamut.
Sometimes, all the complainant gets is a better explanation of why they received the treatment they got.
Other times, there can be an apology from the agency, reimbursement and improved agency policies and procedures.
"One person can make a difference for a lot of others," said Carter. "One person (who complained about B.C. Hydro billing) received a $60 refund for himself, but also for 580 others."
The Office of the Ombudsman receives about 8,000 inquiries and complaints a year and investigates about 2,000 of them.
The office has jurisdiction over a wide range of public agencies, including provincial government ministries, Crown corporations. It does not have jurisdiction over federal ministries or agencies, private corporations, courts or police.