B.C. Premier John Horgan says the one thing he regrets in the province’s COVID-19 response is moving too quickly to cancel scheduled and elective surgeries.
Speaking on a broad number of issues in a year-end interview with Global News, Horgan says the province could have avoided pushing back many surgeries.
“In hindsight, suspending elective surgeries, there wasn’t the surge we had anticipated in our acute care system,” Horgan said.
“We could have potentially relieved some pain from British Columbians a little bit earlier.”
On March 15, the province announced “fundamental changes” to the acute care system and cancelled all non-urgent, scheduled surgeries in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The province never experienced the surge on hospitals and capacity pressures expected. On May 18, the province resumed elective surgeries in an attempt to clear a backlog of more than 30,000 procedures cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The resumption of surgeries and the resources allocated to fast-track surgeries has an estimated cost of an additional $250 million on the health-care system.
“Even thought I felt that maybe we should have waited a bit longer … we were able to make up for it on the extraordinary work in the health-care system,” Horgan said in the year-end interview.
Aside from hospitals, the provincial government has faced significant challenges in long-term care facilities. The government moved to a single site staffing plan, investing additional money in wages to ensure workers only needed to work at one care home.
The province put in severe restrictions for visitors to long-term care, meaning many residents have not seen loved ones face to face since the pandemic began.
Both seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie and the head of the BC Care Providers Terry Lake called on the the province to use rapid COVID tests at long-term care facilities for staff and essential visitors. The province has rejected the idea.
“I take my advice not from the internet but from Dr. Henry. She is telling me that this is not the time to implement the rapid testing in long-term facilities because it will just lead to more false positives that will lead to more confusion, staff staying home and things people don’t think through when they say this would be the easiest thing to do,” Horgan said.
British Columbia counted heavily on the carrot approach rather than the stick. The province, for most of the pandemic, refused to strictly enforce COVID-19 rules when it came to breaking COVID-19 regulations in the province.
But as the second wave of the virus came and cases soared, B.C. announced plans to have more people enforce the rules. This also included a requirement to wear masks indoors in public spaces.
“You need to do things when you do them. I know that sounds glib to people watching at home. We had extraordinary pickup from the people at home to the advice from Dr. Henry. Our communities were responding way better than other provinces to asking people to use their common sense,” Horgan said.
“If we brought them in when cases were really low people would have dismissed the regulations.”
In 2020, the B.C. premier became the first NDP leader in the province to be re-elected. His decision to call a snap election paid off, leading the NDP to their largest majority in the province’s history with 57 seats.
As for Horgan’s own future, he hasn’t given it much thought yet.
“I am going to keep doing this until the people tell me they don’t want me around any more. I am optimistic British Columbians want to pull together and I am going to listen to them,” Horgan said.
“Ellie (Horgan’s wife) didn’t mention it this morning when I went to work what she wanted me to do but we will have those conversations closer to 2024.”
The full year end interview with Premier Horgan will air on Global BC on Jan. 1, 2021 at 6:30 PST