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Province investing $1.6 billion in fall/winter COVID-19 preparedness plan

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
September 9th, 2020

Premier John Horgan outlined an investiment of $1.6 billion in a fall and winter preparedness plan Wednesday that will significantly build upon and strengthen measures that respond to the health-care requirements of COVID-19.

Horgan said the plan will provide new support to seniors in long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities, by ensuring more British Columbians than ever before can get a flu shot, and by reducing the chance for transmission of COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals.

“The actions we are taking today are a big step to help protect everyone in our province as we head into the fall, and in doing that, will also help lessen the impact the pandemic has had on our economy,” said Premier John Horgan.

“We know people have stepped up to stop the spread, and right now we need good people to step forward to help deliver these life-saving initiatives.”   

The Government of B.C. is dedicating $44.1 million to launch the Health Career Access Program and recruit an estimated 7,000 health-care workers in long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities throughout the province.

The program will provide a path for approximately 3,000 applicants who may not previously have had health-care experience to receive on-the-job training. New hires in the program will start in a health-care support worker position and receive paid training that leads to full qualification as a health-care assistant.

“It’s anticipated that up to 7,000 health-care workers will be hired this fall and winter,” Premier Horgan said. “We’re looking to people who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, particularly those who were employed in the hospitality industry. They understand service.

“They understand the importance of treating people as individuals and they know it’s essential to treat people with respect and dignity. Those critical core skills, with our specialized training, will provide them with a rewarding, well-paying career that will make a significant and positive impact on our health-care system and the seniors who rely on it.”

BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson said while there is uncertainty of what the pandemic will bring this fall, he criticized the Premier John Horgan for putting his own political interests ahead of the real needs of British Columbians.

“British Columbians are looking for leadership that ensures we’re healthy and safe and that also focuses on the economic health of our families,” said BC Liberal leader Wilkinson. “Today, John Horgan showed he’s not prepared to deliver that and instead, is consumed by the fortunes of his party and not the people he serves.”

Wilkinson said after Dr. Henry laid out a comprehensive plan of health measures for dealing with the pandemic this fall, Premier Horgan refused to rule out an early election and chose to fuel the speculation by saying the Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) with the BC Greens is not worth the paper it is written on.

“Everyone I talk to wants all of us to be focused on how we’re going to recover, both economically and health-wise,” added Wilkinson. “It’s been six months and John Horgan has still yet to put forward a recovery plan — and now we know why: his mind is preoccupied on an election no one wants.”

 Adrian Dix, Minister of Health said it is a massive human resources undertaking that benefits the B.C. health-care system and economy.

“Expanding the number of health-care assistants in our province will significantly strengthen the level of care in long-term care homes,” said Minister Dix. “The Health Career Access Program will help people get trained for some of the most important jobs in B.C.

These jobs ensure seniors get the quality care they need and deserve – 7,000 new health-care workers will make a huge difference in the lives of our seniors.”

To further protect vulnerable British Columbians, the Province is providing $374 million to bolster public health measures, including significantly building out the fall flu immunization campaign.

As part of this, 45,000 Fluzone-High Dose immunizations will be made available to all long-term care and assisted living residents. Fluzone-High Dose is a higher dose vaccine designed specifically to protect people over 65 from influenza.

An additional 450,000 influenza vaccine doses will be made available in the 2020-21 influenza season, for a total of approximately two million doses.

“The COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to protect yourself and your family from influenza,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer.

“By getting immunized against influenza, you’re protecting yourself and those who are vulnerable to complications from the flu. Staying healthy also helps to reduce strain on our health-care system as we deal with COVID-19. Getting the flu shot is safe and effective, and this year more than ever, I ask everyone who can to get a flu shot.”

The Government of B.C. is also dedicating $42.3 million to ease the pressures off B.C. hospitals and reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission in the hospitals. Hospital at Home, an innovative program that has succeeded in Canada and around the world, allows patients who meet the criteria to be offered 24/7 care at home rather than being admitted to hospital.

Through in-person and virtual visits, patients will receive safe, effective care from nurses and physicians experienced in hospital medicine and acute care. Hospital at Home will launch through the Victoria General Hospital, then through additional hospitals over the coming months.

The Health Career Access program, enhanced fall immunization campaign and Hospital at Home are vital new additions to the B.C. pandemic response, but do not stand alone. A constant focus is to ensure that strength is added where necessary, and that it supports or enhances existing initiatives.

“On April 20, we announced help to rural, remote and Indigenous communities so they have access to critical health care during COVID-19 and beyond,” Premier Horgan said. “On Aug. 12, we announced we were hiring approximately 600 additional health professionals to increase contact tracing capacity.

To date, 86 have been hired, approximately 200 are in the interview and offer stage, and the remainder are in the screening phase. Work to increase testing continues, and this fall, lab capacity will allow for 20,000 tests per day. The Ministry of Health also continues to ensure the Province is equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE).”

Through its experience with COVID-19, the Province has learned and adapted to ensure its strengths and resources are developed and positioned to protect and keep safe those who are most vulnerable to the virus.

“All of these initiatives support our ongoing efforts to keep British Columbians healthy and stop the spread,” Premier Horgan said.

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