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HKPR medical officer brings a local perspective to the Chief Medical Officer's report

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: Kawartha Lakes’ top medical officer echoed a number of points made by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer recently, at a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) board meeting, on Thursday, March 16th.

Earlier this month, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, released the 2022 annual report, titled ‘Being Ready: Ensuring Public Health Preparedness for Infectious Outbreaks and Pandemics.’ In her remarks to board members, Dr. Natalie Bocking, HKPR’s local medical officer of health, talked about how the report relates to the local HKPR area.

“The report is focused on infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness, and the role of local public health agencies in that. [It highlights] the need for continued and sustainable investments [in order to] be prepared,” she explained.

Dr. Bocking discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic had a domino effect on other infectious diseases.

“We are seeing the re-emergence of some pathogens [which] were previously well controlled. For example, Measles and Polio: since the COVID-19 pandemic [they] have started to re-emerge in locations [in which] they were previously eliminated.”

She referenced decreased vaccination coverage and the resurgence of global travel as reasons for this trend, and also talked about why continued funding for public health agencies is important.

According to Dr. Bocking, in the last century, “there is a[n] historic cycle to public health funding: referred to by the Chief Medical Officer as a ‘boom and bust cycle.’ You have a public health crisis, such as COVID-19, lots of attention put forward, and then as that fades away, governments reprioritize health dollars, and typically, what we see is funding cuts to public health,” she said. “Without fail, we’ll have another large outbreak or another public health crisis, and local public health agencies and provincial public health agencies are not as prepared as they should be.”

Dr. Bocking mentioned monthly meetings between the health unit, family health teams and long-term care homes, as an example of how the health unit is sustaining their relationships within the health sector.

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