Supports to help B.C’s remote, rural and Indigenous communities gain access to critical health care during the COVID-19 pandemic have been introduced by the Provincial Government.
The Province said this will help these communities across B.C. gain access to health care tailored to fit their needs during the current public health crisis and into the future.
“People living in rural, remote and Indigenous communities have unique challenges in accessing the health care they need,” said Premier John Horgan. “This new collaborative framework will bring immediate relief to these communities, including a commitment to moving patients to the critical care they need at a moment’s notice. This will help our work to stop the spread of COVID-19 while supporting better health outcomes into the future.”
According to the Provincial Government, its new framework was guided by cultural safety principals and builds off work done by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC. The Province added that it formed the new procedures through a partnership with Northern Health, Provincial Health Service Authority and the First Nations Health Authority.
The new framework can be adjusted by local leaders in remote, rural and Indigenous communities to provide the flexibility to fit with the needs of residents.
The B.C. Government said its new framework provides a number of immediate actions meant to improve health care and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes:
- Improved medical transportation options to larger centres, including flight and ambulance.
- Housing options for people looking to self-isolate near their families while remaining in their home communities.
- New and faster COVID-19 testing technology.
- Culturally safe contact tracing that respects privacy in small communities.
- Access to Virtual Doctor of the Day, a program that connects First Nations members and their families in remote communities to a doctor or nurse practitioner using videoconferencing.
- Options for accommodation near larger centres with more medical services.
- Increased mental-health supports in communities.
Local leaders will decide how the services are implemented within their community, to give residents a choice on how they receive care.
“COVID-19 is a virus that can move extremely quickly and cause a serious decline in health,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This presents real challenges for rural, remote and Indigenous communities, for whom access to critical care may not always be close to home. We’re working with our partners to make sure people can access the health care they need, no matter where they live in the province.”
In preparation for the launch of this initiative, the BC Emergency Health Services has added 55 ambulances and seven fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to its fleet around the province.