New health investments aim to address critical staff shortages in seniors’ care sector

B.C.’s Pandemic Preparedness Plan includes innovative health care career pathway & enhanced flu vaccines

Burnaby, B.C. (September 10, 2020): The leading organization representing B.C.’s non-government seniors’ care and retirement living operators — BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) — is lauding the announcement of a $1.6 billion pandemic preparedness plan led by the province’s Ministry of Health, with measures to help strengthen the province’s healthcare system.

At a Wednesday news conference kicked off by Premier John Horgan, Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced substantial new investments to support seniors living in long-term and assisted living residences and reduce the health risks associated with a pandemic “next wave.” Minister Dix – who was accompanied by B.C.’s chief provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry – unveiled the new Health Career Access Program, an innovative a $44.1 million initiative to create entry level positions in seniors’ care for underemployed British Columbians in hard hit sectors such as hospitality and tourism.

At the news conference, Minister Dix also announced that 45,000 “high-dose” influenza vaccinations will be made available to all seniors living in long-term care and assisted living residences. The Fluzone-High Dose vaccine has been specifically designed to help protective older adults from influenza.

“Through the Health Career Access Program, we can create new pathways to great careers in health care,” says Terry Lake, CEO at BCCPA and EngAge BC. “We know that jobs in the seniors’ care sector are rewarding, provide a living-wage, and are considered to be ‘pandemic proof.’ On-the-job training is also known to be an effective and low-barrier approach to attract people to careers in seniors’ care.

“We commend the Minister for securing new investments that will address the health human resources crisis.”

The Ministry has set a goal of recruiting an additional 7,000 workers for long-term care and assisted living residences throughout the province. These new workers will be provided with on-the-job training to ladder up to become registered health care assistants.

Last March, BCCPA piloted a similar initiative targeting hospitality sector workers called Operation Canucks — through a partnership between BCCPA and Canucks Sports and Entertainment. It provided a protype for for attracting candidates whose jobs were lost due to the COVID crisis, and it provided short-term employment opportunities for up to 75 workers last spring.

“Going forward, our Association will seek ways to maximize the impact of these new investments through strong partnerships with the Ministry of Health,” adds Lake. “We see this as a pivotal moment for the seniors care sector, and we intend to seize the opportunity to improve staffing levels.”

BCCPA has been long advocating for new measures to address the chronic health human resources challenges in the province. In 2018, the organization championed a robust health human resource strategy known as “BC Cares Renewal.” The recent implementation of single site only measures have exacerbated staffing challenges and are leading to burnout among frontline workers and driving up overtime costs.

For the full details of the B.C. government’s pandemic preparedness plan – including backgrounders on the Health Career Access Program and fall influenza campaign, see this news release.

To submit an expression of interest in the Health Career Access Program, see this page.

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About BC Care Providers Association

Established in 1977, BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) is the leading voice for B.C.’s continuing care sector. Our growing membership base includes over 380 long-term care, assisted living, home care, home support, and commercial members from across British Columbia. Through its operating arm EngAge BC, the organization represents independent living, as well as private pay assisted living, long-term care and home health services.