By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter

A new recruitment and training program will hire 7,000 workers for the long-term care and assisted living sectors, the B.C. government announced Sept. 9.

The additional staff will help keep residents safer and facilitate more visits between family and seniors in residential care, the Province said..

“Fundamentally, that’s what the plan is about,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

About 2,000 people will be hired to work with infection prevention and control specialists to enhance care, conduct COVID-19 screenings and ensure best practices for residents of long-term care and assisted living facilities, said Deputy Minister of Health Stephen Brown.

The government will also fund a Health Career Access Program to hire and train 5,000 additional health care aides, cleaning and food service staff beginning in October-November.

The additional staff are intended to increase capacity and support ‘best practices’ in the long-term care and assisted living sectors, Brown said.

“The staff working there have done an absolutely incredible job over the past few months,” said Brown. “We’re working with them to look at how we can support… best practice in the care of the residents.”

Learn on the job
Working with the health authorities and private sector operators, the $44 million Health Career Access Program will allow people to train and learn on the job, and be fully qualified care aides within 12 to 18 months.

“Training will be paid for by the Province as an incentive for individuals to think about a long-term career in this important sector,” said Brown.

After months of lockdown in seniors’ residential facilities in the spring when residents weren’t allowed any visitors, public health began allowing one visit per resident, per week, beginning June 30.

The first changes to visitation were modest to ensure facility staff were able to manage visits without a spread of infection, said Dix. “I think care homes have managed the visitation policy very well.”

But the pandemic will be with us for another year, said Dix. The additional resources are intended to provide a higher level of support for residents in the meantime. The jobs training program will ease pressure off existing staff who have taken on extra duties, such as those related to infection control measures, and visitor and staff health screenings. All of which should allow more visits to residents while maintaining public health protocols, helping to normalize life within long-term care during an abnormal time.

“It’s not just a question of protecting people from infection – whatever that infection may be – but also allowing people to live well,” said Dix. “That’s part of what increasing staffing will do.”

Fran Yanor/ Local Journalism Initiative / Rocky Mountain Goat / [email protected]