The BC government announced on Wednesday that it is investing $1.6 billion into a fall and winter “preparedness plan” to help manage the continuing coronavirus pandemic moving into the colder months.
“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 province 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 BC hospitals.
As part of the investment, the provincial government is dedicating $44.1 million to launch the Health Career Access Program and recruit an estimated 7,000 healthcare workers in long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities throughout the province. New hires in the program will start in a healthcare support worker position and receive paid training that leads to full qualification as a healthcare assistant, said Horgan.
“We’re looking to people who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, particularly those who were employed in the hospitality industry,” he noted. “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, said Horgan, “with our specialized training, will provide them with a rewarding, well-paying career that will make a significant and positive impact on our healthcare system and the seniors who rely on it.”
Joined by BC Health Minister Adrian Dix, Horgan recognized this plan is a “massive human resources undertaking” but that it benefits the BC healthcare system and economy.
“Expanding the number of healthcare assistants in our province will significantly strengthen the level of care in long-term care homes,” said Dix. “The Health Career Access Program will help people get trained for some of the most important jobs in BC. These jobs ensure seniors get the quality care they need and deserve – 7,000 new healthcare workers will make a huge difference in the lives of our seniors.”
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As well, the provincial government said that as part of its efforts to further protect “vulnerable British Columbians,” it is providing $374 million to bolster public health measures, including significantly building out the fall flu immunization campaign.
“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. “Staying healthy also helps to reduce strain on our healthcare system as we deal with COVID-19.”
Finally, the provincial government said it is also dedicating $42.3 million to ease the pressures off BC hospitals and reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission in the hospitals.
The program, known as Hospital at Home, allows patients who meet the criteria to be offered 24/7 care at home rather than being admitted to hospital.
“All of these initiatives support our ongoing efforts to keep British Columbians healthy and stop the spread,” said Horgan.