VICTORIA -- Families of loved ones in long-term care homes marched through downtown Victoria to the front lawn of the B.C. legislature for a rally Tuesday.

The group was trying to get the attention of politicians during the election campaign to persuade them to change policies implemented in the province’s care homes.

They want to allow for more than one person to visit a loved one in long-term care, and they also want to expand how often family members can provide actual care to a loved one in a facility.

Although there is a designation of essential visitors, a group called “Families for Change in Long-Term Care,” say those visits don’t happen as often as they should. 

Organizer Debra Sheets says the restrictions introduced during the pandemic are taking a major toll on the health of residents in care homes.

“The longstanding social isolation is having a huge impact on people, on residents in long-term care”, Sheets said.

On the campaign trail Tuesday, NDP Leader John Horgan said the government would continue to follow the advice of public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

“I appreciate the frustration of family members. I’ve heard directly from those individuals,” said Horgan. “But Dr. Bonnie Henry has led us through this pandemic very capably, protecting people, keeping us safe.”

Henry said Monday that the issue of visits to care homes continues to be reviewed and revisited. 

She said part of the challenge with expanding the number of visitors and visits is a lack of adequate staff at the homes to facilitate more visits.

Henry also noted that there have been outbreaks in care homes in other provinces where restrictions have been eased.

“We’ve seen in Quebec and Ontario, in particular, that they did expand quite a lot, and they’re now starting to see larger outbreaks in their care homes,” said Henry.

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said his mother died in an Alberta care home last year, and he empathized with the those at Tuesday’s rally.

“What we need to work toward is a system where we have housing for seniors that is sufficiently private that it can accommodate private visitors,” said Wilkinson.

Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau pointed to the snap election as potentially interfering with a speedy response to the problems at care homes.

“Because of this election, how much of that work is being stalled?” she questioned.

Prior to the election campaign, the NDP government pledged to hire and create thousands of jobs for people in the province’s care homes.

Those jobs have not been created or trained for yet, however.

Meanwhile, the province’s seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, is doing an online survey that closes at midnight on Wednesday, aimed at getting feedback on the impact of restrictions at care homes.

Mackenzie’s office says she will use the results of the survey to create a public report that will be released at the end of October.