SARS report a 'wake-up call' for public health
A federal advisory committee on severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) recommends a Canadian agency for public health be established to help control future outbreaks of communicable diseases.
The report concludes there was inadequate "collaboration, co-ordination and communication" between all levels of government during the outbreak of the illness in Ontario.
- INDEPTH: Severe acute respiratory syndrome
The federal committee on SARS was required to look at the lessons that can be learned from the outbreak.
CBC Radio obtained a summary of the report prepared by Dr. David Naylor.
"We do have the expertise, but we don't have the ability to co-ordinate it," says Dr. Donald Low, chief microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and a key member of the team that was trying to track and contain SARS.
Low called the report "a wake-up call" for the public-health sector.
Low says public-health departments had a problem sharing their information because they lacked co-ordinated data systems.
The report calls for changes in the system of monitoring and sharing data.
It also highlights the lack of resources in the health-care system.
If major outbreaks of SARS and the West Nile virus occurred at the same time, the system could be overwhelmed, it says.
While health-care workers were battling SARS, there were not enough people to deal with day-to-day health issues, the report says.
Natalie Mehra of the Ontario Health Coalition says the report accurately pinpoints some of the problems with the health system.
"When there are extra demands put on the system there just simply are not enough resources there to deal with those demands," she said.
The report also tackles the issue of screening at ports of entry such as airports and border crossings.
If there is going to be screening, there should be quarantine personnel and support staff on site to make sure it is done properly, it says.