B.C.’s health care system has struggled to provide enough home care services for elderly and chronically ill people, but now in the COVID-19 pandemic, some acute care cases are going to be treated at home as well.
Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the “hospital at home” program as part of their preparations for the winter season that could produce a surge of hospitalizations for coronavirus along with the seasonal influenza that causes spikes in hospital admissions each winter.
The new program will begin at Victoria General Hospital this fall and then roll out at other B.C. hospitals later. It’s modelled on Australia’s “hospital in the home” program that officials there say is showing good results.
“The approach is to make sure that eligible patients can get the care they need outside of an acute care facility, and ensuring that of course they can get that care in their own home,” Horgan said. “For many patients, especially elderly, this means that they will be able to avoid complications that often-times emerge in our acute-care facilities. Hospital at home reduces pressure on hospitals, and of course it’s critically important as we go into the flu season that we make sure our hospitals are not congested when they don’t have to be.”
Opening hospital space for a potential surge of COVID-19 cases plus influenza and other winter illness and injury is the focus for B.C.’s health ministry, which had to empty more than half of its acute care beds in the early months of the pandemic. That includes an expanded influenza vaccine campaign this fall, and doubling B.C.’s COVID-19 testing capacity to 20,000 tests a day.
A northern B.C. hospital is next to introduce hospital at home, where hospital space and home care are scarcer commodities, and paramedics have been assigned to home health checks to give them enough work to make a living in small communities.