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Local health experts involved in virtual COVID-19 discussion

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: Kawartha Lakes health officials provided residents with a COVID-19 update, during a health virtual town hall event, on Thursday, June 11th. Each member of the roundtable was able to provide an update from their organization during the town hall. Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s (HKPR’s) Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lynn Noseworthy was the first to speak. “So much has changed in just a couple of weeks. We now have an expanded testing strategy from the province that enables anyone with or without symptoms to be tested. The Premier has announced a regional approach to the reopening of services, and starting [Friday, June 12th] businesses within our area are being permitted to open under stage two of the province’s recovery plan,” she explained. “If there’s one thing that can be said about 2020, it’s that it is a year of change.”

Dr. Noseworthy said the local health unit has been meeting regularly with the provincial Ministry of Health and Public Health Ontario “to learn all [they] could about this new virus. What it is, how it is transmitted, the symptoms it causes, how to test for it, and public health measures to prevent infection.” She added, their entire staff are focused solely on responding to this pandemic.

“The City of Kawartha Lakes is one of three upper tier municipalities served by the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. Unfortunately, [it] is the area within our jurisdiction where we have seen most of our cases,” Dr. Noseworthy said. While Kawartha Lakes is included in the province’s stage 2 reopening plan, Dr. Noseworthy had a message of caution. “I urge you all, to remember the public health measures that allowed us to prevent the spread of the virus. We all need to be diligent in continuing to practice physical distancing, wash your hands thoroughly, wear a mask or face covering while we are out and cannot maintain that six feet or two metres of separation from people, cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, and stay home if we are ill.”

Next up to provide an update was Ross Memorial Hospital’s (RMH) President and CEO Kelly Isfan. “We’ve seen really positive community support. Monetary donations, donations of personal protective equipment, people sewing cloth masks for others, and just by staying home people are helping us in the hospital do our jobs,” Ms. Isfan said.

Ms. Isfan also offered praise to her staff members. “There was a lot to learn, as Dr. Noseworthy said, but the RMH team was really quick to adapt. There was a number of steps we took, we’ve got a lot of direction from the ministry of health, and Ontario Health,” Ms. Isfan said. “Consistent with those directives we created inpatient capacity, by postponing all non-essential surgeries and services, we limited the access to the hospital to the one front entrance only, and began actively screening our own staff and patients coming in through that entrance. We were directed to minimize all people in the hospital, so we paused all volunteering and put a stop to all non-essential visitors.” She addressed what people can expect when coming to the hospital. “If you are coming to hospital, you will be asked to wear a cloth mask. You can bring your own if you have it. We also have them here, and we’ll give you one to keep, if you need that too.”

Kawartha Lakes paramedic Chief Andrew Rafton also spoke about local pandemic efforts. “These are unprecedented times, and the last 12 weeks have been stressful for all of us. But for frontline healthcare workers, including paramedics, working in this new ever-changing environment everyday has been exceptionally stressful, both physically, mentally and emotionally. They face, having to wear large amounts of protective equipment at times, in extremely hot conditions, and the stress that they could be coming in contact with the virus, and taking it home to their families. Our paramedics are now faced with the reality that every patient they come into contact with could potentially test positive for the coronavirus, and thus [they] take full precautions on each and every call.”

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