VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Health Minister Adrian Dix is apologizing for not making a report into COVID-19 in B.C.’s long-term care homes public sooner.
The report was commissioned in the summer, but released Monday.
“It was available at the end of October, it was only brought to my attention 10 days ago,” Dix says.
“It should have been released earlier. I take responsibility for that. I’m the Minister of Health.”
Re: Ernst and Young report released today, @adriandix says some gaps in long-term care were identified in October and work continues today to close them.
He admits this document should have been released sooner and he takes responsibility for that. #bcpoli @NEWS1130
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) January 25, 2021
The report, by Ernst & Young, looked at how the province responded to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in long-term care during the first wave of the pandemic. It reveals confusion over policies and infection prevention. It finds specific policy orders from the provincial health officer were interpreted differently by health authorities and there were gaps in infection prevention and control as well as emergency preparedness. It also highlights a lack of consistent provincial policy on how health authorities and facility operators handled residents who tested positive for COVID-19.
Dix says changes have already been made in order to streamline responses and oversight, strengthen communication with frontline workers, and to improve information sharing.
“I think when you read the report, you’ll see what action has been taken on it. And when you read the report, you’ll see that overall, and on balance, the outcomes in British Columbia, have been positive or were positive especially at the time the report was done although it’s been more challenging since,” he says.
Ernst & Young did praise the government for its decision to create a health emergency command centre as well as an order restricting staff from working at multiple long-term care facilities, which it says contributed to stopping the spread of COVID-19 infections in care homes.
But it added that those restrictions also highlighted staffing shortages and other underlying issues.
Dix urges those who are frustrated by the report’s late release to consider the strain the pandemic has put on the entire healthcare system.
“While people should have ensured that the report was released, those same people have been working their guts out, and I asked people to show the same compassion I feel towards people who are giving everything they have to help people across British Columbia.”
Shirley Bond, Interim Leader of the BC Liberals says there is no excuse for the delay.
“British Columbians deserve transparency and every bit of information necessary to fight this virus effectively,” she writes in a release.
“Any report that deals with how we improve care for our most vulnerable seniors should hardly be described as minor, as the minister attempted to characterize it. Dozens of organizations were consulted about what could be done differently and expected to see the report long before now.”
Terry Lake, the CEO of the BC Care Providers Association and a former cabinet minister for the BC Liberals, says the delayed release had fatal consequences.
“Clearly the second wave has been far deadlier than the first. So, sitting on this report and not putting these recommendations into place immediately has had deadly impacts.”
More than 650 of B.C.’s over 1,100 deaths from COVID-19 have been in long-term care facilities.
With files from The Canadian PressLTC_COVID-19_Response_Review