B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head to their daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. legislature, April 15, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head to their daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. legislature, April 15, 2020. (B.C. government)

Additional visits to senior care homes coming, B.C.’s top doctor says

Seniors Advocate recommends more family access

Allowing more people to help care for elderly relatives in B.C.’s long-term care homes is a high priority, but it takes more staff and protective measures to make it happen, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says.

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix were asked Thursday (Nov. 5) about an extensive survey of care home residents and family members released this week by B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. It shows that a strict interpretation of “essential” visitors has tended to leave only one designated relative with the ability to assist with meals, grooming and companionship, and that even those visits are greatly reduced under pandemic orders.

Henry reported two additional care home outbreaks have been declared in the province in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of active outbreaks in the health care system to 30. But the majority of those in recent weeks have been a single staff member testing positive and being isolated.

The two new care home outbreaks are at Tabor Home in Abbotsford, the second infection for that facility, and Pinegrove Place in Richmond.

“We’ve had ongoing conversations with the Seniors Advocate and her report is well received,” Henry said. “We are making sure that we have appropriate things in place to be able to support increased visitation for those we know who need it and their families. Some of them have to do with the personal protective equipment and the staffing requirements, and those are coming along.”

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With B.C. setting another daily record of 425 new cases Nov. 5, out of more than 11,000 virus test results, Henry noted that health care staff are being exposed in the community along with the rest of the people contracting COVID-19. A new report on infections among health care workers is coming next week.

“I can say that our percentage of health care workers who are infected has come down over the last few months,” she said.

Dix noted that house parties, weddings and other gatherings that spread the virus to larger numbers of people are infecting people in health care and other essential services, and moving from region to region. While the vast majority of recent cases are identified in Metro Vancouver, people move around the province, and a recent outbreak at a care home in Dawson Creek shows that all regions are at risk of exposure.


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