PRINCE GEORGE (NEWS 1130) — The BC Liberals are demanding the premier release an independent report into COVID-19 in long-term care homes that was apparently commissioned last summer, before COVID-19 cases and deaths surged in the second wave.
Interim Leader Shirley Bond says the opposition — along with the public — only learned of the report’s existence Thursday.
“Apparently there was a report written we have no idea where it is, or what the content was,” she tells NEWS 1130.
“We think it is absolutely essential that families and long-term care homes in British Columbia know what happened with that report, and that the premier needs to make the full report public.”
Bond points out that she is left to speculate about how the findings or recommendations contained in the report may have impacted the province’s response to the pandemic, but notes the devastating toll the coronavirus continues to take on seniors in long-term care.
“The most significant, tragic outcome of COVID has been the impact on the most vulnerable British Columbians in long-term care and we are learning that apparently, the government asked for an independent report that asked for advice about what could be done differently what needed to be done. Apparently, they asked for some significant input about policy and practice changes,” she says.
“There are few things more important than answering those kinds of questions at the moment. How do we deal with what is now a second wave where there continues to be loss of life in long-term care?”
The BC Liberals want to know what was in the report, when it was delivered to the NDP, and why it was not released before the snap election was called in the fall.
Detailed information about outbreaks in care homes was released earlier in the pandemic, but stopped in October.
Since then, an outbreak at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Place claimed 41 lives, making it the deadliest since the pandemic was declared. Family members began contacting NEWS 1130 soon after that outbreak was declared on Nov. 22, 2020, providing updates about the staggering number of infections and deaths. The care home, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the province would not confirm the number of workers and residents who contracted the virus, or confirm the number of residents who had died.
In response to demands for transparency about COVID-19 cases among staff and residents in long-term care, the province began providing a weekly update in January of 2021.
The most recent update, released Thursday, shows active outbreaks at 43 homes. In total, 251 people have died in these outbreaks, which includes the one at Little Mountain Place.
B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie will be reviewing outbreaks where cases spread to many residents, resulting in numerous deaths.
“What we’re going to be doing is looking at those outbreaks that were prolific. It’s not just Little Mountain. Tabor Village, Langley Lodge, Holy Family, New Vista. There’s a few out there. Why did they get so out of control? It’s not sufficient to just say once it gets away from you, it’s difficult to control. Little Mountain is all single rooms. No shared rooms there,” she told NEWS 1130 in early January.
Mackenzie said she is also looking forward to learning from care home operators who’ve managed to keep COVID-19 from killing anyone or where it has been successfully contained.
Bond says the fact that Premier John Horgan says he welcomes this review “makes it all the more alarming that this July report, already paid for and completed on the same issue, has not been made public.”
With files from Paul James and Marcella Bernardo