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

Overnight shutdown of Highway 1 at McKenzie interchange for sign installation

Traffic will be impacted in both directions, detour available

Wildfire smoke expected to blanket Greater Victoria again

Conditions expected to worsen Wednesday afternoon but not approach levels reached a few weeks ago

Canadian warship HCMS Regina sails past Sidney

The vessel recently returned from the world’s largest naval exercise

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Former Victoria Royals manager celebrates Stanley Cup win

Grant Armstrong is now an amateur scout with Tampa Bay Lightning

Orange Shirt Society launches first textbook on residential school history

Phyllis Webstad and Joan Sorley worked on the 156-page book to help educate students

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

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

Orange Shirt Day lessons of past in today’s classrooms

Phyllis Webstad, who attended St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in British Columbia, is credited for creating the movement

Greens’ Furstenau fires at NDP, Liberals on pandemic recovery, sales tax promise

She also criticized the NDP economic recovery plan, arguing it abandons the tourism industry

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Most Read