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Local health unit redeploys staff back to regular programs, begins hiring

June 4, 2020   ·   0 Comments

In certain areas across Ontario, the Federal and Provincial governments have provided staffing resources to assist with case contact and management for COVID-19.

This hasn’t yet been necessary in Simcoe Muskoka and with cases counts declining each week, it’s unlikely that it will be needed in the near future, according to area health officials.

“I don’t think we’re going to need to seek that kind of solution,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Chief Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

“We are fortunate in that our caseload – the incidence of COVD-19 in Simcoe Muskoka – has always been at about half the rate of the province as a whole and maybe a third of the Greater Toronto Area,” he added.

“That has allowed us to be less severely impacted with the [contact tracing] workload and the resources that we would need.”

Many SMDHU staff have been working overtime, evenings, and weekends but the organization has been getting by with the resources that it’s had. However, they’re hiring more staff for case contact management.

Upping the SMDHU’s COVID-19 surveillance staff creates greater capacity to inspect and advise work environments that have already reopened or will soon in Simcoe Muskoka.

It also allows the public health unit to redeploy staff back to the positions they were working prior to COVID-19.

“We want to be able to repatriate staff who normally are doing other public health work but have been put to the cause of responding to COVID-19,” Dr. Gardner noted.

“They want to be allowed – at least some of those – to be able to go back to their normal line of work.”

Programs pertaining to food or water borne outbreaks, child reproductive help, tobacco control, and responding to the opioid crisis have been paused due to a reshuffling of in-house resources so the SMDHU could adequately respond to COVID-19.

“We want to be able to return some of our staff to that kind of work and so we are bringing in people to help enable that,” said Dr. Gardner.

“We’re also finding that with the reduction of cases right now, that’s helping us to free up our resources in and of itself to be able to put people back to those other jobs.”

Simcoe Muskoka is less affected by COVID-19 than regions with denser populations throughout Ontario. Although, Dr. Gardner noted that the current decline in cases over the past few weeks could change and if a surge were to take place, then they would reassess if contact tracing resources are sufficient.

He said residents of Simcoe Muskoka should be proud of their collective efforts to reduce COVID-19 transmission in their communities; however, it’s important to maintain safety precautions such as physical distancing to avoid a second spike.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

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