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

Grant applications approved for Crofton to Maple Bay Trail and Fuller Lake Arena roof replacement

North Cowichan also planning to look into illegal secondary suites

North Cowichan launches survey on the future of community engagement

Clarifying how community input can influence the municipal decision-making process one of the goals

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

Lairds mark landmark 65th anniversary this summer

Love story endures the test of time and not defeated by COVID pandemic

Many reasons motorists need to slow down

Construction, back to school, people walking dogs, riding bikes all factors

Quirky Canadian comedy ‘Schitt’s Creek’ takes Emmys by storm with comedy sweep

Toronto-raised Daniel Levy and Ottawa-born Annie Murphy both got supporting actor nods

B.C. has highest number of active COVID-19 cases per capita, federal data shows

B.C. currently has 1,803 active cases after weeks of COVID-19 spikes in the province

181 days gone: Family continues to look for man last seen in RCMP custody 6 months ago

Brandon Sakebow’s last known location was leaving Mission RCMP cell, police say; family has doubts

B.C. unveils new cannabis sales programs to help small, Indigenous growers

Government did not say how it will define small producers, but says nurseries will be included in the policy

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

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Most Read