VICTORIA – The province will hire approximately 500 additional health professionals to increase contact tracing around British Columbia, helping keep communities safe as it continues its COVID-19 restart plan.
“We want to make sure people are kept safe in any COVID-19 outbreak, and one of the ways to do that is through strong contact tracing,” said Premier John Horgan. “These new contact tracers will provide an extra layer of protection by jumping into action as soon as there is an outbreak, and will start their detective-style work to find out who may be infected in order to protect all British Columbians.”
Contact tracing works by following up with each person who has tested positive for COVID-19 to understand who their contacts may be and providing appropriate followup. Health authorities’ public health teams typically have staff who do contact tracing of communicable diseases as part of their regular work. However, given the scale of the response needed for COVID-19, additional supports are necessary.
“As we have seen in recent weeks, strong contact tracing is absolutely crucial when dealing with community outbreaks as we slowly and safely increase our contacts,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Our health-care workers have gone beyond the call of duty during the pandemic, and we are putting out this call to these dedicated professionals to bolster our contact tracing capacity and prepare us for a potential surge of COVID-19 in the fall.”
Some of these positions will also help to support public health services, such as providing education in communities, and possibly immunizing for influenza and other diseases. Reducing the number of people with the flu helps alleviate the burden on provincial laboratory testing infrastructure and protects acute-care capacity in B.C.’s hospitals as respiratory illness season approaches this fall.
“When there is a community outbreak, time is of the essence,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. “These new contact tracers will work with existing public health teams to help track down all those who may have been exposed and support people to self-isolate when necessary. This role becomes even more crucial to contain the spread as we continue to open up our schools, economy and social activities, and as we prepare for the upcoming cold and flu season this fall.”
These positions will be temporary and will be recruited by the Provincial Health Services Authority and the regional health authorities. This will allow health authorities to increase their local pool of available public health professionals, while also providing a team of people that are available to be deployed throughout the province as needed. The Ministry of Health is working with Health Match BC and the health authorities to manage the recruitment process.
It is anticipated that candidates will begin work in September 2020 and will be employed until the end of March 2021, with opportunity for extension if needed.