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

Vancouver Island Indigenous leaders supportive of B.C.’s new plan for old forest preservation

More than 260,000 hectares in Clayoquot Sound mapped for immediate old growth harvesting deferral

HISTORY COLUMN: Reflecting on the 32nd anniversary of Canada’s apology to Japanese-Canadians

Japanese-Canadians an integral part of Tofino and Ucluelet’s history.

Extravagant marriage proposal in Ucluelet

“It was such a dream. He brought a dream to life. No one does this anymore.”

Missing mushroom picker found “alive and well” after three-day search in Ucluelet

“It’s always great to have a positive outcome like this.”

Ucluelet mayor criticizes province’s lack of communication as highway closures resume

Daily closures return to only highway in and out of Tofino-Ucluelet

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

Lumber hitting record high prices due to low supply and high demand

B.C.’s forest industry hasn’t been able to keep pace with the COVID-19 building boom

‘Monkey Beach’ supernatural film adaptation premiers at VIFF

Based on Kitamaat author Eden Robinson’s debut, mystical novel

Most Read