B.C. to add 495 long-term care beds in Interior

COVID-19 underscores need for better long-term care in B.C. -- Adrian Dix

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announces new long-term care beds for Kelowna, Pentiction and Nelson. | BC Government

The B.C. government will add 495 new long-term care beds in the Interior, Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Monday.

Dix said all the new units will be single-rooms and will be built in Kelowna (140), Kamloops (100),Pentiction (90), Vernon (90) and Nelson (75).

Dix said a request for proposals will go out in the fall, with contracts to be awarded in December. Construction of new facilities would begin in early 2021.

Dix said that, in the Interior Health Region, the population of people over the age of 70 is expected to increase by 28% over the next five years, but said current standards of care have not been met.

Problems with the long-term care home sector in B.C. were highlighted recently by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected the elderly in long-term care.

"COVID-19 has demonstrated to us, obviously, the central vulnerability of people living in long term care," Dix said.

He said that the majority of long-term care homes in B.C. did not meet provincial staffing standards when his government first assumed power. He said residents were, on average getting two hours of care per week less than required by provincial standards.

A problem with long-term care home staff working multiple locations was revealed during the pandemic, which was likely worsened in care homes because workers may have been spreading the virus by working at multiple locations.

Some 8,848 of these workers are now restricted to working at a single care home, and the province has been trying to recruit and train more front-line workers.

Dix vowed that the provincial standards for care will be met by the end of this year.

"We've recruited and are training more care aids than ever before, as we increase staffing in our care homes," Dix said.