(Dr. Bonnie Henry, Minister Adrian Dix/Photo by Colin Smith Takes Pics)

Residents at long term care facilities will soon be allowed to have a limited number of visitors with added safety measures in place, after months of no physical contact with family members due to the enhanced risk that COVID-19 has posed for seniors in B.C.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that long term care facility residents will be allowed to have a single visitor in a single designated area of each facility.

These visits are subject to certain rules and guidelines including:

  • The facility cannot allow visits if they are in the middle of an outbreak,
  • All visitors must wear a non-medical face mask,
  • Visits must be booked in advance,
  • Designated staff members must be on hand to screen visitors, making sure they do not have symptoms of COVID-19, are wearing a mask, etc.,
  • Indoor and outdoor designated spaces for visitation must be available.

The full set of guidelines will be posted to the BCCDC website later today, according to Dr. Henry.

In addition, personal services providers like hair stylists will be allowed to enter long term care and assisted living facilities to offer their services.

Businesses that offer these services will be required to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place and have additional rules to follow, like being required to keep the names of each person they come into contact with to facilitate contact tracing in case of an outbreak.

According to the provincial health officer, each facility will be responsible for drawing up their own safety plan before they can start to allow visitors.

More funding

As part of this announced Minister of Health, Adrian Dix, stated that $160 million of funding will be allocated to all public and private long term care and assisted living facilities in British Columbia.

This money is earmarked for the hiring of three additional staff members per facility—for a total of up to 2,040 people—who will help screen visitations and ensure COVID-19 safety measures are followed.

An extra $26.5 million will also be provided to facilities to help them address pandemic-induced costs incurred between March 1 and June 30.

These costs include additional infection control measures, covering sick pay for workers, and increased costs for changes to the way services are provided.

“I have spoken before of negative unintended consequences of COVID-19. For many seniors in long term care facilities, the impact of being separated from loved ones have been immense,” added Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“Our hope for all the restart things is that it will keep us going for the coming 12 months or however long we need to.”

In-person visits at long term care facilities in B.C. were suspended about three and a half months ago, as the enhanced risks of the pandemic for elderly people became clear.

During the briefing, Dr. Henry’s voice shook with emotion as she thanked seniors for their patience during these changes, noting that pandemic rules can be confusing and difficult for people with challenges like dementia.

“You have shown resilience, determination, and courage.”

Over 100 people at long term care and assisted living facilities have died in B.C. over the course of the pandemic so far, marking that population as the most vulnerable to experiencing the most severe effects of COVID-19.