British Columbia has spent more than $1 billion so far in COVID-19 health care costs

By Richard Zussman  Global News

Posted February 22, 2022 2:37 pm

 Updated February 23, 2022 12:12 pm

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Finance Minister Selina Robinson announces the government will be spending $3.2 billion over three years to strengthen the health and mental health care system in B.C. The government will be focusing on areas such as waitlists, immunization, paramedic response times, urgent and primary care centres and mental health and addiction services, among others.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has cost B.C.’s taxpayers more than $1 billion in health-care funding.

For the first time, British Columbians are getting a broader look at how much managing the pandemic has cost taxpayers.

The federal government has provided COVID-19 vaccines free of charge to the provinces. But British Columbia spent $550 million to rent out clinic space, hire staff and build infrastructure to administer more than 11 million vaccines.

The price tag on vaccination is still an estimate and is expected to be higher when the fiscal year ends.

“We have been really focused on having a robust health response,” BC Finance Minister Selina Robinson said during the budget on Tuesday.

“I think my surprise is mostly back in March 2020 when we were faced with the pandemic and not knowing what to expect.”


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COVID-19 testing has cost an additional $100 million so far based on costs associated with lab time.

The costs are significantly lower than vaccination because the province already owned the lab space where the testing is done and testing facilities were in some places coupled with vaccination clinics.

Personal protective equipment for health care workers has cost between $100 and $120 million for the health-care system.

The move to restrict staff to a single long-term care facility cost an estimated $140 million. Screening procedures at long-term care facilities cost an estimated $160 million.

The overtime costs for the system were about $300 million but are similar to typical years due to chronic understaffing and postponing surgeries.


The B.C. Hospital Employees’ union is in the midst of bargaining with the province around a new contract and questions the tallying of the financial toll of offsetting chronic understaffing.

“The government needs to do everything in the budget to support recruiting and retaining health care workers. That is going to include significant compensation increases and we will deal with that at the bargaining table,” B.C. Hospital Employees’ Union spokesperson Mike Old said.

“It is hard to imagine overtime costs have not gone up especially over the last few months during the Omicron wave.”

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The province has earmarked $875 million in contingencies for COVID-19 management. There are $915 million in unallocated COVID dollars for additional recovery and health measures.

There is also $25 million, on top of the money already spent, to support the tourism sector severely affected by the pandemic.


Greater Vancouver Board of Trade CEO Bridgitte Anderson says earmarking money in contingencies creates uncertainty for businesses battered by COVID.

“The pandemic has really been uneven, especially for small and medium-sized businesses,’ Anderson said.

“Half the money is set aside in contingencies. We know the cost of business is going up and we were hoping measures were taken to make it easier.”

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