Care homes have been under stress in the COVID-19 pandemic, with visitors not allowed and a struggle to maintain adequate staffing and protective equipment. (Pixabay)

COVID-19: Stabilizing B.C. care home staffing to cost $10 million a month

Operator survey shows critical shortage of protective equipment

The B.C. health ministry is implementing its coronavirus staffing model province-wide to stabilize senior care and assisted living homes, starting with southwestern regions where COVID-19 cases have been detected in more than 20 facilities.

Restricting personal care aides to working in one facility only is “well advanced” in the Island Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, Health Minister Adrian Dix says, and work is underway this week in Fraser Health, B.C.’s largest health region by population.

Shifting many of B.C.’s 20,000 care aides from multiple part-time jobs to working in a single facility to reduce infection risk started with care aides in locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff or residents. Taking the system B.C.-wide is expected to add $10 million a month to the staffing cost, which has non-profit and for-profit contractors as well as staff working directly for regional health authorities.

The changes are being made “within the existing blended service delivery model of health-authority owned and operated, affiliates and private providers,” accommodating employee preferences in where they work as far as possible, Dix said April 9. “And it ensures that all of them receive an equitable wage and scheduling stability so they can work at a single site without financial hardship or patient service disruption.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the risk has long been known, but is heightened now.

“This is something that we have recognized in public health from the very beginning of this outbreak, and indeed, recognized it from outbreaks that we have every year, whether it’s influenza or gastrointestinal outbreaks, or even anti-microbial resistant outbreaks,” Henry said.

Dix and Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie have pushed for improved working conditions for care aides, where there was a chronic shortage of skilled help before the coronavirus pandemic. Mackenzie issued a report in February showing for-profit operators spend significantly less on direct care than non-profit contractors, with 49 per cent of for-profit revenues going to care compared to 59 per cent for non-profits.

RELATED: For-profit senior homes spend less on direct care

RELATED: Seniors Advocate questions care home labour shortage

The province is also working to keep facilities supplied with personal protective equipment. A survey of senior care and community living operators released April 11 that 70 per cent were running low on surgical and N95 respirator masks, and half of the respondents expected to be out of eye protection gear by the end of the Easter weekend.

SafeCare BC, a health and safety association of providers, has launched Operation Protect to coordinate donations of equipment.

The staff situation became urgent with the discovery of a COVID-19 outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, where the virus spread to Lions Gate Hospital.

As of April 9, 30 of B.C.’s 50 coronavirus deaths have been recorded among residents of long-term care. Two of the affected facilities have been declared COVID-19 free, while 20 more are in outbreak protocol, with 143 residents and 92 staff members confirmed infected, recovering in isolation or being treated.

Dix said the ministry is working to implement Henry’s order with the Health Employers Association of B.C., the Hospital Employees Union and other unions, the B.C. Care Providers Association, Denominational Health Association and private employers.


@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

COLUMN: Chilliwack judge refuses to hear guilty plea and sentencing over the phone

‘The sentencing judge must be in a position to confront the offender, meet his eye’ - Judge Kristen Mundstock

Fraser Valley Regional Library branches offer curbside pick up

After two and a half months of being closed, people can once again check books out of the library

Thousands without power after semi collides with power pole in Chilliwack

The collision happened at Prest and First and now 3,600-plus customers are without power

Additions at Chilliwack schools may eventually replace portables

District’s capital plan illustrates which schools need to expand as community grows

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

B.C.’s police watchdog probing death of Richmond man in alleged shoplifting incident

Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is asking any witnesses to come forward

Most Read