A nurse gives a seasonal influenza shot to a police officer at the B.C. legislature, 2013. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. to expand COVID-19 testing, winter hospital bed capacity

Extra influenza vaccine coming to minimize seasonal surge

B.C. is entering a fall and winter season with combined effects of seasonal influenza and COVID-19, and the health ministry is expanding its hospital bed and immunization capacity to prepare.

Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry laid out their preparations Sept. 9, including additional health care hiring and ramping COVID-19 testing up to 20,000 tests a day. Currently B.C. has capacity for about 6,000 tests a day.

The objective is to get through the winter influenza season and treat coronavirus patients without cancelling scheduled surgeries or restricting hospital services as was done in the early months of the pandemic this year. Seasonal influenza has caused a significant spike in hospital admissions in previous winters.

Dix said the expansion of health care services will add thousands of new jobs in long-term care and other key positions, with on-the-job training available for people who have lost their jobs in tourism and service industries. The positions begin with a paid training program at $20 an hour, “with fully qualified health care assistants earning approximately $23 an hour.”

Henry said Australia and other southern hemisphere countries are seeing a relatively mild seasonal influenza season as their winter progresses, partly due to increased vaccination. The influenza vaccine will not be mandatory, and there are no mandatory vaccines in B.C. or anywhere in Canada, Henry said.

Dix said the federal government supports the program to expand influenza vaccine, with a supply of high-dose vaccine designated for all long-term care and assisted living patients.

The health ministry has purchased an extra 450,000 doses of influenza vaccine, for almost two million vaccinations. There will be an October advertising campaign for high-risk people to get the shot. As suspected influenza cases are also tested for COVID-19, the ministry is adding more contact tracing staff to identify and contain community exposures.

The province announced in April that it is adding 55 more ground ambulances and an aircraft to support rural and remote health care. The ministry says that will be in place by October, to improve transport to B.C.’s 19 COVID-19 treatment centres in larger centres around the province.

RELATED: B.C. to add 55 ambulances for remote health care

RELATED: B.C.’s post-pandemic economy to recover in 2022

The ministry has added $1.6 billion to its budget this year, to allow hiring of up to 2,000 additional staff to provide better infection prevention and control practices and senior care facilities. About $800 million of that additional money has already been announced to implement single-site employment for care home workers, and to increase contact tracing for coronavirus infections.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One in custody after assault, barricade in Esquimalt Road residence

Victoria police closed down portion of the road Wednesday night during incident

Light the City takes root in Greater Victoria as pandemic cancels holiday favourite parade, convoy

Five weeks of drive-thru events fill void of IEOA annual Truck Light Convoy, Santa Claus Parade

Sidney council signals support for recreational cannabis store

A 6-1 vote sends application forward for final approval from province

Blackberry festival moves forward with drive-thru in Metchosin

Event takes place on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Lessons from a pandemic: How to design a nursing home that’s safe and love-filled

A look at how one care home is battling the pandemic with the social needs of the elderly in their care

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. salmon farm opponents demand answers from DFO

First Nations, conservation groups dismayed by omission of sea lice in risk assessments

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

Most Read