The province has unveiled a suite of initiatives to protect long-term care and seniors’ assisted-living residents from COVID-19 as facilities begin allowing visitors.
“British Columbians flattened the curve through individual actions and a commitment to look out for each other – our families, friends and neighbours,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “That commitment has come with many sacrifices, especially from our seniors and elders who have been separated from their loved ones. That’s why throughout this pandemic, we are have sought to continually improve our long-term care and seniors’ assisted living operations, to make them safer for residents and those who care for them. Each of us must continue to be completely committed to combatting this virus for these historic investments to be effective.”
Residents will begin to be able to have a single designated visitor in a specific visiting area. This approach will be monitored through July, with an aim to expand it in August.
“We know how important it is for our family members in long-term care to receive visits from family, friends and supporters. We also know that’s a risk when we have COVID-19 in the community,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “Once long-term care homes have plans in place and they’re taking the extra precautions needed, I’m so happy to say that we can safely move towards allowing visitors again.”
Updated provincial requirements will ease the current visitor restrictions for long-term care homes and seniors’ assisted living residences with clear guidance on required precautions. Each facility must develop written plans outlining how they will meet the requirements.
Visitation requirements for long-term care home and seniors’ assisted living facilities include:
- Visitation in individual facilities can resume once they have their required written safety plan in place.
- Once in place, residents will be able to have one designated visitor in appropriate designated spaces.
- Designated spaces will include outdoor or indoor locations; and
- all visitors must bring and appropriately wear masks.
Essential visitor restrictions remain in place for other health-care settings.
In addition, personal service providers, including hairdressers, will be able to come into long-term care and seniors’ assisted living facilities if they have completed a WorkSafeBC safety plan.
The province is providing more than $160 million for facilities to hire up to three full-time equivalent staff in each of B.C.’s 680 long-term care homes and seniors’ assisted living residences, including both public and private facilities. This could total as many as 2,040 additional staff dedicated to ensuring infection prevention and control measures for COVID-19 are followed to support safe visitation.
The additional staff will also work to schedule visits and make sure visitors do not enter the facility if they are sick, wash their hands frequently, practise respiratory (cough) etiquette and maintain a safe physical distance of at least two metres from patients and staff wherever possible.
The province will also provide $26.5 million for facilities to address costs that they incurred between March 1 and June 30, 2020, including:
- additional screening so only those approved to enter facilities do so;
- costs incurred due to sick time and self-isolation;
- costs for changes to services, i.e., delivering meals to rooms or staggering meal times to ensure physical distancing, additional housekeeping and enhanced cleaning; and
- infection prevention and control costs.
In April 2020, the province partnered with the BC Care Providers Association to launch EquipCare BC. EquipCare BC is a new program that will provide $10 million to enhance infection prevention and control and improve quality and safety in long-term care and seniors’ assisted living homes throughout the province.
During the pandemic, supporting seniors has remained a key element of government’s response. In April, using orders under the Public Health Act and Emergency Program Act, the Province implemented a process to support workers to work at a single facility. This includes the development of a new labour agreement that ensures all workers at health authority, non-profit and private facilities receive an equitable wage and have their work hours scheduling stabilized so they can work at a single site without disrupting services for residents. The expected total cost of the program in 2020-21 is approximately $10 million to $15 million a month, funded by the province.