(Premier John Horgan/Province of B.C.)

The provincial government announced Wednesday that they will be boosting funding to the Ministry of Health by over $1.6B in preparation for flu season combined with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding provides an operating budget increase of $1.58 billion and a capital budget increase of $150 million for 2020/21. It includes:

  • $374.0 million for public health measures
  • $416.6 million for community and long-term care measures
  • $783.9 million for recovery and increased health capacity
  • $150 million for renovations and equipment to support the healthcare system to respond to COVID-19

The government says that $850 million has been announced already through a variety of initiatives including increased contact tracing staff, the surgical restart strategy, and increased spending for personal protective equipment (PPE).

Research and development is also being funded through the Ministry’s budget boost.

A portion of the budget allocated for public health measures will provide a $15 million research fellowship grant to Simon Fraser University that will be distributed over three years, as well as $10 million to fund critical research at the BC Centre for Disease Control.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Premier Horgan said that operational funding will also allow for retraining of out-of-work hospitality workers in addition to the hiring of new staff.

“The Health at Care Access program provides a path for people without healthcare experience to get on the job training,” said Horgan.

“That means good news for those in the hospitality sector and other parts of British Columbia’s economy that have been affected by COVID-19. These are opportunities for 7,000 good-paying jobs.”

$44.1 million is earmarked for recovery and increased health capacity expenditures for recruitment and training.

COVID-19 has also impacted the Ministry’s revenues from parking fees and out-of-province charges. $87.6 million of funding for recovery and increased health capacity has been earmarked to compensate for these losses.

Included in the $150 million in capital expenditures is:

  • $45 million to renovate operating rooms, intensive care units (ICU) and high-actuity units (HAU)
  • $21.6 million for an additional 633 beds to respond to surges in requirements
  • $12 million for an additional 488 ventilators
  • $10 million for additional monitors and defibrillators for ambulances and aircraft in rural and remote communities
  • $25.3 million for enhanced Information Technology infrastructure, including better hardware and software across Health Authorities
  • $15.8 million in additional lab testing equipment
  • $4.3 million in upgrades to BCCDC warehouse refrigerators and cold storage units
  • $2.9 million for hand-held and portable imaging equipment
  • $12.5 million to replace or refurbish 55 existing ambulances, and the purchase of eight new ambulances

Horgan also noted on Wednesday that the province has procured an additional 450,000 doses of influenza vaccine for a total of 2 million in preparation for the coming flu season.

This is factored into funding for public health measures, with a cost of $18.8 million for flu and anti-viral vaccines and harm reduction supplies.

“We’re preparing for the challenges that the influenza season will bring to an already challenging pandemic situation,” said Horgan.

“We need to intensify our activities as we come into the cold and flu season.”