Across our diverse communities, taking care of our elders is a priority for us all. From raising a family and putting children through school, to making a new life in Canada or combatting racism in society, our elders have supported us every step of the way and helped us succeed. Like others, my immigrant mother worked on farms, in canneries and in garment factories to help support our family. After work, she still found time to sew warm jackets for us children to keep out the cold. Now that my parents are older, it is my turn to take care of them. I know my story is not unique.
As the MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview, I know that seniors care is especially important because we have the highest number of seniors residing in Vancouver. Our neighbourhood is home to many independent-living, assisted-living, and long-term care facilities that provide our elders with the care they need at every stage of their life.
COVID-19 has been particularly hard on elders who are now forced to stay home, and not see their loved ones as frequently as they used to. It was hard for their families who were not able to visit during the initial lockdown. It may still be hard as we limit visitation to one family member. And unfortunately, these sacrifices continue to be necessary as we do our utmost to keep our loved ones safe.
Our government took swift action by investing in our health care system so that care workers could afford to work at one facility, rather than at multiple locations. We invested $160 million to hire 5,000 – 7,000 additional people to help support our efforts to improve our long-term care system, which in turn improves the quality of life for people in long-term care. During the pandemic and also before it, we have been working tirelessly for better seniors care in B.C. We are continuing to invest in services like home support, respite care, and community programs, that make life better for our seniors.
We made sure we are ready for flu season by investing $1.6 billion into our fall and winter preparedness plan. This includes acquiring an extra 450,000 doses of flu vaccine for a total of nearly two million in order to protect British Columbians and our elders.
As you know, we cancelled non-emergency surgeries to ensure our hospitals were able to deal with the pandemic in its initial stages. Since then, we have launched our surgery renewal plan to catch up. We are now about two-thirds of the way into clearing the backlog and we continue to make progress every day. Not only have we caught up to pre-COVID surgery levels, but we have surpassed them and are doing more surgeries than ever before.
I want to thank the many care workers, aides, doctors, nurses, and other health professionals who are on the front lines every day. We got through the first months of the pandemic thanks to their tireless and selfless work. We are forever grateful for their devotion to protecting our elders in Vancouver-Fraserview and across the province.
To all families, I send my deepest and heartfelt condolences if you have lost someone to this terrible disease. We are doing everything we can to keep our elders safe, so that no other family has to go through what you have gone through. Thank you for all that you are doing. We must continue to keep our elders connected to our communities. They have been there for us, and we will continue to be there for them as we remain kind, calm, and safe.
George is the MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview and Minister of State for Trade. He was elected in 2017 and previously served two terms on Vancouver City Council.