$1.6 billion from the Provincial Government will be invested in a fall and winter preparedness plan aimed at strengthening measures that respond to the health-care requirements of COVID-19.

The B.C. Government said its new plan provide new support to seniors in long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities, as it will allow more people to get a flu shot, and reduce the chance of transmission of COVID-19 in hospitals.

“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 $44.1 million will go to launch its Health Career Access Program and recruit approximately 7,000 health-care workers in long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities across B.C.

New hires in the program will start in a health-care support worker position and receive paid training that leads to full qualification as a health-care assistant.

“It’s anticipated that up to 7,000 health-care workers will be hired this fall and winter,” 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. 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, with our specialized training, will provide them with a rewarding, well-paying career that will make a significant and positive impact on our health-care system and the seniors who rely on it.”

The B.C. Government said the significant investment will be beneficial to the province’s economy and health-care system

“Expanding the number of health-care assistants in our province will significantly strengthen the level of care in long-term care homes,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “The Health Career Access Program will help people get trained for some of the most important jobs in B.C. These jobs ensure seniors get the quality care they need and deserve – 7,000 new health-care workers will make a huge difference in the lives of our seniors.”

The Province added that $374 million will go to bolster public health measures, including expanding the fall flue season immunization campaign.

45,000 Fluzone-High Dose immunizations, specifically designed to protect people over 65, will be made available to all residents in assisted living and long-term care. On top of that, a total of about two-million flu vaccine doses will be available province-wide, as an additional 450,000 influenza vaccine doses will be added in preparation for this flu season.

“The COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important than ever to protect yourself and your family from influenza,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “By getting immunized against influenza, you’re protecting yourself and those who are vulnerable to complications from the flu. Staying healthy also helps to reduce strain on our health-care system as we deal with COVID-19. Getting the flu shot is safe and effective, and this year more than ever, I ask everyone who can to get a flu shot.”

$42.3 million will be spent on easing pressure off B.C. hospitals and reduce the chance of COVID-19 transmission in hospitals.

Hospital at Home is a program that has succeeded in Canada and around the world which has allowed patients to be offered 24/7 care at home rather than being admitted to hospital. The program will is in-person and virtual visits to keep patients safe while they receive care from nurses and hospital medicine and acute care physicians.

It will not be available province-wide at first, however, as Hospital at Home will launch in the Victoria General Hospital, and introduced to additional hospitals over the coming months.

The B.C. Government said the Health Career Access program, enhanced fall immunization campaign and Hospital at Home are important additions to the province’s health care response, but do not stand alone.

“On April 20th, we announced help to rural, remote and Indigenous communities so they have access to critical health care during COVID-19 and beyond,” said Premier Horgan. “On August 12, we announced we were hiring approximately 600 additional health professionals to increase contact tracing capacity. To date, 86 have been hired, approximately 200 are in the interview and offer stage, and the remainder are in the screening phase. Work to increase testing continues, and this fall, lab capacity will allow for 20,000 tests per day. The Ministry of Health also continues to ensure the Province is equipped with personal protective equipment.”

The Province said it has learned and adapted to ensure its and resources are developed and positioned to protect those who are most vulnerable to the virus, through its experience with COVID-19.