A few hundred care home employees are still working at multiple sites, Dix says
VANCOUVER -- Health officials in British Columbia are providing a clearer picture of the progress they've made protecting residents of long-term care homes and assisted-living facilities from the coronavirus.
Back in March, officials first realized the movement of employees between various homes was a dire problem that could result in spreading COVID-19 to different homes caring for people who are demographically more at risk of severe infection and death.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order to keep workers at a single site only, and months later, that policy has been applied to thousands of employees – but hundreds continue to work in multiple locations.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are 48,794 employees across all of B.C.'s care homes and assisted-living facilities, including 8,878 who were working at multiple sites prior to the order.
As of Thursday, Dix said 8,495 of those employees are now working at a single site. That leaves 383 employees still working at multiple sites.
Dix said the vast majority of long-term care sites – 199 out of 204 – are in compliance, but that assisted-living facilities in the Island Health region are lagging behind.
There are 28 assisted-living facilities in the province that still have health-care workers who are working at multiple sites, Dix said.
The health minister described Henry’s single-site order as an “important step” in limiting the transmission of COVID-19 in B.C. and a “remarkable achievement” given the logistical challenges associated with implementing it.
Among those challenges was ensuring that workers being limited to a single site were compensated fairly, Dix said.
"I know jurisdictions have proposed and even ordered single-site staffing, but to make it happen requires ensuring that workers are treated both fairly and appropriately, and that's happened in B.C.," he said, noting that workers would begin seeing changes in their pay, retroactive from when they started working at a single site, by mid-June.
"I think it's an enormous achievement," Dix said.
He praised those involved in the seniors' care sector in the province for taking what he called a "team B.C." approach to implementing the single-site order, adding that he believed it would have a positive impact on the industry over the long term.
There is still more work to be done, Dix said, noting that capital improvements are badly needed in health-authority-operated facilities around the province. Recruiting new workers is also a key concern, he said.
"I'm hoping that the recognition and celebration of health-care workers will inspire a new generation of people to do this work," he said.