Explainer: The B.C. Government’s COVID-19 Preparedness Plan

$1.6 billion has been earmarked for expanding health-care infrastructure into the fall and winter

Health Minister Adrian Dix and Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provide an update on COVID-19 on September 14, 2020. (Flickr/ Province Of British Columbia)

In a plan unveiled Sept. 9, the government of B.C. announced they would be investing $1.6 billion into a fall and winter preparedness plan designed to support the province’s health care system in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Designed to protect British Columbia’s most vulnerable, the province announced an increase in COVID-19 testing to up to 20,000 tests per day and is hiring 600 additional workers to increase contract tracing and case management measures. B.C. is also improving its fall influenza immunization campaign.

“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,” said Premier John Horgan during a press conference.

The province is providing $374 million to strengthen public health measures while they face both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu. This includes its fall immunization campaign. Approximately 45,000 Fluzone-High Dose immunizations will be provided for long-term care and assisted living residents. An additional 450,000 doses will be made available for the upcoming flu season, bringing the total to about two million doses.

“Getting the flu shot is safe and effective, and this year more than ever, I ask everyone who can to get a flu shot,” said B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, in the announcement.

These funds will also help hire contract tracing staff, strengthen lab testing, improve access to virtual health care, and direct $58 million to improving health care in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities.

Over $416 million is designated for community and long-term care measures. This includes $122 million for hiring up to four new staff members at each long-term care home and assisted living facility to “support infection prevention.”

Nearly $784 million is for recovery and increased capacity, including $146 million for personal protective equipment and $186 million for increasing surgical capacity. $44.1 million is dedicated to the Health Career Access program, which will recruit 7,000 health care workers in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities across B.C.

In an effort to reduce strain on hospitals and COVID-19 transmission, $42.3 million will be invested in the Hospital at Home program, which provides patients with 24/7 at-home care so they do not need to be admitted into a hospital.

The government will also be investing $150 million for renovations and equipment. This includes an additional 488 ventilators, 633 hospital beds and stretchers, and over $45 million to renovate operating rooms and ICUs.

As part of the $8.25 billion set aside by the Province for its COVID-19 response, Premier Horgan and Finance Minister Carole James announced a $1.5 billion economic recovery package during a Sept. 17 press conference.

Jobs and training will receive $416.6 million, including nearly $300 million for healthcare employment. Nearly $52 million is for supporting people, including K-12 back-to-school funding and mental health support.

About $405 million is to help businesses, including a recovery grant for small and medium-sized businesses and a new tourism task force. Over $302 million is for community infrastructure and includes a COVID-19 community infrastructure program and regional port enhancements. $67 million is dedicated to social support, including childcare spaces. $25 million will go towards food security and farming, and over $223 million is dedicated to technology, innovation, and clean energy projects.

B.C. is slated to experience a $12.8 billion deficit this fiscal year due to COVID-19, according to CTV News Vancouver.

Premier Horgan’s office could not be reached for comment in time for publication.