Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit B.C., the B.C. government was working on a plan to address concerns about a lack of access to health and medical services in remote communities, including First Nations.
“Many people who are sick have to travel hours to see a doctor,” Premier John Horgan said at a press conference Monday. “COVID-29 is adding pressure to an over-burdened system.”
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have accelerated a plan to provide provincial transportation services -- from airplanes and helicopters to 55 new ambulances -- to get people living in remote communities to hospitals.
"If we can't build the facilities in rural and remote communities, we should make sure we have the ability to take citizens to those facilities," Horgan said.
The plan also includes enhanced virtual health care, and housing options so that people who may be infected or at risk of being infected to be in isolation within their own communities.
The province is also providing quick, portable COVID-19 tests, called GeneXpert, that do not require drug labs to process the tests. There is a limited supply of these quick test kits available, so they are being provided to remote communities in priority.
While the measures announced Monday were accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, they will remain in place after the pandemic has passed.
“The emergence of the pandemic only highlighted the importance of ensuring that we have in place programs and policies that will make all British Columbians equal when it comes to accessing their health care,” Horgan said.
“People in rural, remote and indigenous communities won’t have to worry about how they get there anymore, and that will relieve some of the burden emotionally as well as the burden financially.
“And we’re committed to moving patients at a moment’s notice.”