Provincial Health Officials have released a health sector COVID-19 management plan for the next few months, as BC prepares for a possible second wave of the coronavirus.

The plan outlines the health systems’ response to the pandemic, along with actions to manage routine demand on health services through the fall and winter.

According to health officials, the actions in the report are based on current health system capacity, and the demand it could be faced with.

It will also take into account additional demand for hospital care, arising from the surgical restart plan.

Four scenarios for COVID-19 transmission (low, medium, high, and exceptional) are going to be looked at, as well as hospital capacity (inpatient, critical care and ventilators).

The overall assessment, said Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, is the health system has adequate physical capacity to meet demand.

More extreme measures can also be successfully implemented, like delaying surgeries or admissions, if required, added Dr. Henry.

“A key action for the fall is to have in place as much as possible additional surge capacity across key hospitals so that it will be less likely that changes to surgical planning and medical admissions would need to be considered,” Dr. Henry explained.

“However, surge capacity requires a continued focus on strengthening health human resources – hiring, training, and effective deployment will be a key priority.”

There will be a staged approach to regionally managing surges in demand in contrast to the system-wide reduction in hospital bed occupancy used in March.

The staged approach will start by using assigned COVID-19 bed capacity in nineteen COVID-19 sites with the remaining sites be used for local cases.

Additional measures will also be taken to reduce the normal demand for inpatient services.

  • Testing capacity will be boosted to 20,000 tests a day for when there is a higher prevalence of cold and flu
  • 500 new staff hired for contact tracing and case management
  • An enhanced fall flu immunization campaign through the purchase of 1,965,000 doses of vaccine

Despite the extra measures, Dr. Henry says she is confident the flu season will be positively impacted by the enhanced social distancing measures in place.

To protect those who are more vulnerable, infection prevention and control practices across all assisted living and long term care facilities will be prioritized, with funding to hire up to an additional 2,000 staff.

All long term care and assisted living residents will also have Fluzone-High Dose immunizations available.

Up to 5,000 new healthcare aides, cleaning, and food service staff will also be recruited.

For those in rural and Indigenous communities, the implementation of the Rural, Remote and Indigenous Community Framework to provide more in-community support and testing and timely access to primary and urgent hospital care.

-With files from Catherine Garrett, mypgnow.com