Public Health Sudbury and Districts, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, COVID-19

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Public Health Sudbury and Districts held its monthly board meeting on Thursday, shortly after the announcement of two new COVID-19 cases in the area.At the meeting, board members looked to the future as the health unit began planning “public health in a COVID-19 world.”

“Since March of this year, we have been laser focused on the virus to ensure we have an effective response to the pandemic,” said medical officer of health Dr. Penny Sutcliffe.

“We have a large part of our Health Council public health programs in our response to the pandemic, and we have deployed, during this period, at least half of our staff to do so. Of course, with that, we haven’t done much of our regular programming. There are certainly risks when it comes to postponing programs when you think of public health work that hasn’t happened. ”

Since the first local case of COVID-19 in Sudbury was confirmed on March 10, the health unit has postponed programs such as smoking cessation and certain vaccination programs.

“There are also risks that have occurred as a result of the response to the pandemic itself. Think, for example, of the risk related to mental health and isolation. We have heard concerns about domestic violence in homes, and of course with the reopening we now see an additional risk regarding the potential spread of COVID-19. ”

The health unit has established a priority list based on a number of factors classified by risk.

Top of the list is Public Health’s ongoing emergency preparedness and response plan, infectious disease control, outbreak management, on-site clinical services and immunization programs.

It has also been announced that the health unit will resume inspection services to monitor food safety, small drinking water systems and blue-green algae, and continue to implement programs such as the exchange needles.

Resources for families who were under considerable stress during the COVID-19 pandemic will also be a high priority, as will mental health and addictions services.

During the meeting, the board also made the decision to transfer funds to the operating budget to help offset the costs of infrastructure modernization projects.

“The Board of Health was informed at its meeting on February 12 of various assessments made to inform the agency’s need to modernize physical and technological infrastructure,” said a note by Sutcliffe.

“Modernization is based on the need to ensure efficient operations and to keep in line with evolving legislative and service requirements.”

The health unit building at 1300 rue Paris is in need of renovation and the cost of the project has been estimated between $ 3 and $ 5.5 million. The higher final costs would result in a complete overhaul of the HVAC system if deemed necessary.

Public Health Sudbury and Districts has applied for capital funding for the dental clinic and, if successful, the agency will use this funding to offset the costs of physical infrastructure changes at the Rainbow Center office.

The dental clinic’s initial estimate is $ 1.6 million. The cost of the Health Services and Treatment Clinic component of the Rainbow Center project is estimated at $ 1.4 million (funded from reserves).

Council elected to allow the Medical Officer of Health / CEO to transfer up to $ 6.5 million from reserve funds for equipment and repairs and maintenance and public health initiatives to the operating budget to offset the cost of these projects.

Looking to the future, Sutcliffe stressed the importance of staying flexible and being able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

“There will be truly unpredictable expectations placed on us as a public health agency, not just for a few weeks or months, but for a long period of time,” she said.

“We have to be agile, which means we have to be able to act quickly, and we have to be agile, which means we have to be able to react to the current situation. We also need to be able to do this transparently so that we can plan with clear criteria so that we can both increase and decrease our response based on what we need to do. ”

The health unit reminds Sudbury and surrounding districts that while businesses are starting to reopen, we are not yet safe from the virus.

The risk of infection is always present and the public is encouraged to follow public health recommendations to control the spread of COVID-19.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible by funding from the federal government.

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Twitter: @SudburyStar

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