CEO & CHIEF MHO Update: March 23, 2020


At today’s briefing, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry drove right to the core of society’s responsibility in supporting health-care teams: “Health care workers are really the heart of our response to this pandemic. And they face risks, both in the community and at work.” 

We know well the three key expectations of British Columbians in our communities today – proper hand hygiene, social and physical distancing, and staying home from work if you are sick. Thank you for your relentless efforts to demonstrate these practices in your communities and encourage your friends and families to do the same. This work will make a tremendous difference in mitigating the risk for our teams in their communities, and when individuals enter the health-care system.

At work, Island Health teams are leading efforts on multiple fronts to reduce risks to our staff and medical staff. From restricting visiting policies, adopting virtual care in place of face-to-face care where appropriate, reducing acute care occupancy down to an average of 75% across our hospitals, to updating information and increasing training on appropriate use of personal protective equipment, work is underway in these and many other areas to reduce risk. 

We want to share the perspective that one of our ED physicians posted on her Facebook page today (now shared on the Island Health Medical Staff page). Dr. Michelle Tousignant shared how proud she is of her Island Health family, and the incredible planning, training and work that has been happening behind the scenes to prepare for volumes of patients we hope we don’t have to treat. We think her words embody the commitment and spirit of a health-care team that is rising together to meet this challenge, and we too could not be prouder of you – the Island Health family. Thanks for sharing Michelle.


Prime Minister Trudeau today announced a federal advertising campaign to spread the message about social and physical distancing. He also announced $275-million for vaccine development and medical research. The House of Commons will reconvene tomorrow, with a minimum number of MPs, all within driving distance to Ottawa, to pass key pieces of legislation. Watch his daily briefing.

On the provincial front today, there were 48 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 across BC since Saturday’s update, bringing the total number to 472. On a positive note, 100 of those patients have recovered and can be released from isolation. For Island Health, there are now 39 lab-confirmed cases, up two from the 37 announced on Saturday. It is important to note in today’s update two more long-term-care homes in the Lower Mainland now have lab-confirmed cases – for a total of six. We can’t overstate the importance of the vulnerability of our long-term care population. There is a critical need for us as health-care providers to mitigate the risk of introducing the illness into our long-term care homes ourselves, and take all necessary steps to reduce the risk of the same from others, including families of those living in our facilities.

You can read today’s Joint Statement from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and BC Health Minister Adrian Dix, and the transcript of their news conference.

In other provincial news, Premier John Horgan today announced a $5-billion dollar provincial action plan, with income supports, tax relief, and direct funding for people, businesses and services. Highlights of the plan include:

  • $1000 payment to those who can’t work because of the outbreak
  • Increase in the Climate Action Tax Credit
  • Investments to housing and shelter supports, income and disability payments
  • Six-month freeze in Student Loan Payments


The Summit: Island Health is working with the Ministry of Health on strategies to increase space in our hospitals if required. Construction of the Summit long-term care home in Victoria was recently completed. Our intention was to move residents from Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie into the new facility near the end of April. Because the health and safety of our long-term care residents is a top priority, we recently notified families Island Health is pausing this move. Transferring residents from one facility to another requires large teams of people. To undertake this move now would be inconsistent with the Provincial Health Officer’s direction on social distancing and could increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19. Pausing the move supports our need to place critical focus on responding to COVID-19.

If required, Island Health will use the Summit to further reduce occupancy levels at our hospitals – for example patients who are awaiting transfer to other levels of care or requiring rehabilitation supports – which would create more hospital space to meet the acute medical needs of COVID-19 patients. Work is underway developing staffing plan options for the Summit should it be required.

Outpatient Lab Services: In support of our COVID-19 response, today Island Health announced some temporary service hour changes at some outpatient labs, and temporary closures of others. This action supports direction around social and physical distancing and preserves laboratory staff and supplies for the most critical needs we have today and in the days ahead. You can read more information about these changes, which come into effect tomorrow.


As you are likely aware there are mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 in communities across BC, being managed well in people’s homes. Many of these cases do not require testing per the Provincial Health Officer’s direction, and as a result do not show up in the total number of lab-confirmed cases. In tomorrow’s end-of-day update we will provide you an overview of the process Island Health undertakes to arrive at a lab confirmed case.

Watch for an email tomorrow morning with details of our Tuesday noon Virtual Town Hall, where you will get updates from key work streams in our pandemic planning. You can submit questions now by visiting and entering the event code #IHCOVID. We have removed the videoconference option for this meeting to improve social and physical distancing. The audio and transcripts will be posted as soon as we can turn them around.

In closing, we want to thank you for using the resources on the COVID-19 webpage. In the last nine days there have been almost 28,000 hits on the main page. The Human Resources Q&A document has been accessed 7,000 times and the Protect, Minimize and Support page has had almost 5,900 hits. Keep checking these pages for information. We will let you know when there are important updates.

With appreciation,

~ Kathy and Richard

Staying informed:

  • Visit Island Health's ‘source of truth,COVID-19 WEB PAGE on the Intranet. Transcripts or recordings of the Town Halls will be posted after each event.
  • The Medical Staff website has specific information for medical staff.

We are also posting information for the public on our social media channels. We encourage you to follow/retweet/share BCCDC’s and Island Health’s posts.