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Opinion: Fraser Health has moved to 'virtual-first' approach

Over the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our daily lives while uniting us as British Columbians in doing our part to flatten the curve.
burnaby hospital
Burnaby Hospital.

Over the past several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed our daily lives while uniting us as British Columbians in doing our part to flatten the curve.

Through these challenging times, we have stood together and have learned a great deal along the way.

The pandemic has prompted us to adjust how we interact with each other, work, care for our children and support our communities. We have also experienced devastating losses and grief due to the dual public health emergencies of COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic, and my heart goes out to the families, friends and caregivers who have lost loved ones. 

As we continue transitioning into recovery with BC’s Restart Plan, it is important that we find the right balance between ensuring we maintain our readiness to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and renewing our services based on our priorities and lessons learned.

As an organization, we are considering the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are focusing our efforts on priority areas such as strengthening our pandemic preparedness and response, increasing the number of scheduled surgeries and MRIs, and accelerating a “virtual-first” approach.

Moving forward with this “virtual-first” priority is critical to the delivery of health-care services now and in the future.

Over the course of our COVID-19 response, we have learned that, in many cases, connecting with our patients, clients, and residents using virtual means is more patient and clinician-centred.

On a wider scale, people in our region can now access group education for surgery from the comfort and safety of their own home. We have also enhanced our ability to provide medical consults, rehabilitation and many other health-care services using virtual means to support people without them having to enter a hospital or clinic. This new approach helps ensure our hospital-based services are truly reserved for those who need them, and helps support people in accessing the services that are most appropriate for their needs.

During this time of transition, it is important to remember that it is safe for people to access health services if they need them.

All of our emergency departments have remained open, as have our urgent and primary care centres and our mental health and substance use urgent care and response centre.

The plan for surgical renewal is well underway and we have resumed elective surgeries that were postponed during the earlier months of COVID-19. It is important to remember that there are new steps to follow to ensure we can provide these services safely. This means that if you visit one of our sites, you may be asked a series of wellness questions and will be asked to follow hand hygiene procedures. These measures are in place to ensure we are minimizing the risk of transmitting COVID-19 at our sites, and ultimately, in our communities.

At this critical time, we continue to rely on you to do your part. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and have a medical appointment booked, please call ahead so the appropriate precautions can be taken to protect you as well as our staff and medical staff. In addition, in our daily lives, we must remain vigilant and continue to wash our hands and practice physical distancing.

We must also continue to show kindness and compassion. I am so proud of how our health region is demonstrating that we are able to come together in pursuit of a common goal, and I am confident that we are prepared to address a second wave of COVID-19 if it occurs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that we can be nimble, innovative, and resilient in the face of adversity. Thank you to all of our patients, families, communities, staff and medical staff for your patience, graciousness, and compassion as we move forward.

For information you can trust about COVID-19, please visit As our response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, please visit this webpage often as we update the information we share with you.

Dr. Victoria Lee is president and CEO of Fraser Health.