CEO & CHIEF MHO Update: March 24, 2020


During today’s weekly staff and medical staff Town Hall teleconference, Dr. Ben Williams – Island Health’s Interim Vice President of Medicine, Quality and Academic Affairs – shared an important message about the role we all must fulfill in our communities in the face of this pandemic.

“Our communities are looking to us to be their leaders. If you work for Island Health, regardless of your role, the community expects you to have information that they don’t. They expect you to know what is going on. And they will take from your actions what they should be doing. That means when we talk about things like social distancing and handwashing – we need to be the leaders now… That is among the most important things we can do right now. So, be calm – wash your hands – have good social distance – and go to the ‘sources of truth’ for the information you need.”

In the times we are facing today – when thinking about those you have the responsibility to provide care to, or thinking about your colleagues and loved ones – you may not always feel a sense of calm internally. That is understandable, but when we are interacting with others, people look to us for competence, confidence and compassion. Demonstrating calm leadership today is more important than ever.

We want to thank those who took time out of their busy schedule today, and every Tuesday, to participate in the Town Hall. We’re especially grateful for the questions we receive each week (107 today). We commit to post the answers by the end of the week on our COVID-19 Intranet page so that you have the answers you need. Please check the webpage on the Friday after the Town Hall to see the answers to the questions, and continue to dial-in to the weekly calls to hear the latest news and share new questions you have.

Today a helpful new app was released by the Province of BC, which is one more way you can point people to a “source of truth.” This app has the latest COVID-19 updates and statistics, plus trusted resources and alerts. As well, the Self-Assessment Tool released last week is built in. You can download it here: Please share this link on your social media so your friends, family and community can access it too. 


Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provided their regular daily update today. While the numbers in BC increased significantly, Dr. Henry reminded us these numbers represent two 24-hour reporting periods due to the timing of their last update. That said, they reported 145 new confirmed cases in BC, for a total of 617. There are now 44 confirmed cases in Island Health – up from 37 announced at yesterday’s briefing. 

The number of people fully recovered now stands at 173, representing 28% of total cases. The number of confirmed cases hospitalized across BC is now 59, with 23 of the 59 in intensive care units.

Dr. Henry talked extensively about the evolution of the testing strategy, from a focus originally on contact tracing, based on known travel history – to a focus on finding out where community-acquired cases have been spread, where we don’t know the source. She strongly made the point that no community in BC is immune. We know this virus can spread with very minimal symptoms, so we must take social and physical distancing measures seriously at all times – or as Minister Dix put it, “100% compliance. 100% of us. 100% of the time.” 

Minister Dix announced British Columbians can expect to see new advertising in the coming days focused on COVID-19. This campaign will further support you in the great work you are leaning into telling your friends and families what we all need them to be doing.

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.


As mentioned in yesterday’s update, we want to provide you with more information about the change in focus of lab-testing to confirm cases of COVID-19. In order to focus resources on the highest priority needs, testing is focused on health-care workers, long-term care residents, hospitalized patients and those who are likely to be hospitalized, and for symptomatic patients where the source of the infection is unknown.

For health-care workers, swabs are marked to expedite testing to ensure timely results. All Island Health tests for health care workers are being done in our molecular lab at VGH, which is able to turn around most tests within 24 hours. On a daily basis, up to 300 tests across all priority groups are completed at the lab.

If you are a member of Island Health staff or medical staff with a positive test result, you will be contacted by a nurse from our Communicable Disease program within Public Health, who will investigate where and when you worked, and help determine others you may have had close contact with. Occupational Health and Safety will work with your unit/manager to identify what shifts you worked, and if others might have been exposed.

Deep appreciation from both of us must again go to all of our staff and medical staff involved in this critically important work of testing and tracing potential contacts. You can read more about Island Health’s process for testing health-care workers in this Quick Reference Guide.


To keep Island Health staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, our pool vehicle system has been suspended. Read more information here. This temporary closure will remain in effect until the end of April, for now, and will be re-evaluated then. All existing reservations are cancelled up to the end of April.


With visitor ambassadors and patient navigators in place at all of our care sites now, to ensure visitors understand the restriction to essential visitors only, it is important that Island Health employees wear their ID badge. Not only will this make it easier for those who have taken on the tough job of making sure no one is entering our facilities who shouldn’t be, you will find you need card access at some entrances that would have been open in the past.


Yesterday, Minister Dix shared that the directions of the Provincial Health Officer, regarding social distancing and staying at home as much as possible, will likely be with us for several weeks. We know this is the right thing to do for the health of our communities, for your family and for the Island Health family. We also know the impact this has on you and your family from a mental wellness perspective. Please continue to reach out to your colleagues for a friendly voice or ear, and don’t hesitate to take advantage of the organizational programs Island Health and the Doctors of BC have should you need more formal supports. We are all in this together.

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.