BC unveils $1.6 billion fall COVID-19 preparedness plan

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:46 PDT, Wed September 9, 2020

Last Updated: 3:53 PDT, Mon September 28, 2020

A $1.6 billion fall and winter preparedness plan aims to support British Columbians through home care, seniors support and increased access to a flu vaccine.

“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 provincial government is dedicating $44.1 million to launch the Health Career Access Program and recruit 7,000 healthcare workers in longterm care homes and assisted living facilities throughout the province. The program will provide a path for many applicants who may not previously have had healthcare experience to receive on-the-job training. New hires will start in a support worker position and receive paid training that leads to full qualification as a healthcare assistant.

Horgan said the province is looking primarily at people who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, especially those who had worked in the hospitality industry.

“They understand the importance of treating people as individuals and they know it’s essential to treat people with respect and dignity,” said Horgan of hospitality workers.

The province is also spending $374 million on growing the fall flu immunization campaign, making an additional 450,000 influenza vaccine doses available in the 2020-21 influenza season for a total of around two million doses.

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

“The COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to protect yourself and your family from influenza,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “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 is also dedicating $42.3 million to ease the pressures off BC hospitals and reduce the chance of in-hospital transmission of COVID-19. The Hospital at Home program allows patients who meet the criteria to be offered 24/7 care at home, provided by nurses and physicians, rather than being admitted to hospital. Hospital at Home will launch through the Victoria General Hospital, then through additional hospitals over the coming months.

The province is also committing to expanding testing, aiming to conduct 20,000 COVID-19 tests per day. 

To read the complete COVID-19 health-sector plan for fall/winter 2020-21, click here.

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