New visitor policy accounts for needs of care providers, residents and family members

B.C.’s Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced new investments today to support safe and appropriate visits in the province’s 680 long-term care and assisted living residences. The new visitor policy eases earlier restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement follows an earlier public call by BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) and EngAge BC to allow family visits. On June 18th, BCCPA sent a letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlining a three-point plan for family visitation.

In their daily news conference together, Dr. Henry and Minister Dix outlined that starting in July seniors living in long-term care and assisted living residences will be able to receive a single designated visitor in a specified visiting area. Dr. Henry clarified that this single designated visitor must not be more than one person.

Care homes will coordinate and schedule visits in advance and carefully screen visitors upon arrival for respiratory symptoms. Visitors will also be required to wear a mask and comply with all infection prevention and control (IPC) policies set out by the care home. Visits will be immediately suspended at care homes under outbreak protocols.

Implementation of the new visitor policy is expected to occur over the next several weeks, as each care home develops its own written plan in conjunction with local medical and environmental health officers. Care providers will determine how, when and where visits will occur, including specifying indoor or outdoor visitor spaces.

The new visitor policy is supported by significant financial investments from the provincial government. As outlined by Minister Dix, the B.C. government will provide $160 million to care homes to hire up to three full-time equivalent staff in both public and private care residences. This funding adds an additional 2,040 workers to the care sector, all of whom will be dedicated to ensuring safe and appropriate visits.


The government also announced that it would provide $26.5 million to cover additional COVID-19 related expenses incurred by care providers between March 1st and June 30th, 2020. Eligible expenses include additional screening, sick time and self-isolation, changes to services, and infection prevention and control costs.

“This is a good day for B.C. seniors and their family members,” says BCCPA Acting CEO Mike Klassen. “While we must acknowledge there are risks in opening up care homes, we needed to respond to the needs of seniors in care and their loved ones by loosening these restrictions.

“Furthermore, today’s announcement by the Minister around additional staffing is an acknowledgement of the need to address our health human resource challenges. Only with these additional staffing and resources could care providers allow for safe and appropriate visits in long-term care and assisted living. We are pleased that the new policy gives discretion to care providers to ensure how and when they can once again accommodate visitors.”

“On behalf of our members, I would like to thank Dr. Henry and Minister Dix for listening to care providers on this important issue,” says BCCPA Board President Aly Devji. “While we understand that there are risks involved, we are very pleased that they have acknowledged the importance of visits for seniors’ quality of life while keeping important safety protocols in place.”

BCCPA will continue to support our members over the coming weeks by monitoring the implementation of the new policy to ensure the ongoing safety of seniors, family members and staff.

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