Sudbury

6th wave a sign COVID-19 to be around for 'foreseeable future', say public health officials

Public health officials in northeastern Ontario said the sixth wave of COVID-19 hasn't hit all corners of the region yet, but is a sign the virus will be with us for the "foreseeable future."

Sunshine List reveal rising personnel costs at health units, largely due to pandemic overtime

While public officials across Ontario are heralding the coming of the sixth wave of COVID-19, it has yet to hit in some parts of the northeast. (Erik White/CBC )

Public health officials in northeastern Ontario said the sixth wave of COVID-19 hasn't hit all corners of the region yet, but it is a sign that the virus will be with us for the "foreseeable future."

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury and Districts, said while sewer testing is showing an upswing in the virus, hospitalizations, reported cases and other signs of COVID-19 are "slightly trending down." However, she said that without regular testing, it is somewhat of an "educated guess."

Sutcliffe said COVID-19 will be with us for years to come, and there will be "ups and downs" like the rise of the new Omicron subvariant BA.2, which has yet to be detected in her districts. 

In Timiskaming, acting medical officer of health Dr. Glenn Corneil said COVID-19 activity has been rising in the last two weeks, with a record for hospitalizations being set last week.

He said he supports calls for a rollout of a fourth dose of vaccine for the general public, even though the number of people who have rolled up their sleeves for the third dose are still "not at the levels that we need." 

"We continue to encourage, we continue to be open," said Corneil. 

Dr. Glenn Corneil, acting medical officer of health for the Timiskaming Health Unit, says COVID-19 activity has been rising in the last two weeks, with a record for hospitalizations set last week. (Facebook/Timiskaming Health Unit)

In recent weeks, we've gotten a better picture of the cost of the pandemic in the northeast thanks to the annual public salary disclosure of provincial workers who make more than $100,000 per year, commonly known as the Sunshine List.

Sutcliffe's 2021 take-home pay of $800,000 made headlines in Sudbury and had her explaining that the figure includes overtime from both 2020 and 2021.

She told CBC that Sudbury health unit employees worked some 61,000 hours of overtime last year, the equivalent of 34 full-time positions.

The Sunshine List also showed that in 2019, there were 29 workers at Public Health Sudbury and Districts earning a total of $2.1 million, but that figure has swollen to 60 employees taking home a total of $8.7 million in 2021.

"I think what these numbers tell us is the sheer volume and intensity of the work on the back of our public health employees," Sutcliffe said. 

"Frankly [they] haven't asked if they should or if they could or what they'd get in return... They've been there and then ask questions later."

Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, medical officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury and Districts, expects COVID-19 to be with us for years to come, and there will be 'ups and downs.' (Submitted by Public Health Sudbury and Districts)

Other health units in the northeast did not see such dramatic increases in salary costs.

Employees of Algoma Public Health earning more than $100,000 made $3.2 million last year, which has doubled over the course of the pandemic.

North Bay-Parry Sound medical officer of health Dr. Jim Chirico saw his salary go up $60,000 last year, while his counterpart in the Porcupine health district, Dr. Lianne Catton, saw her take-home pay jump from $362,000 in 2020 to $594,000 last year.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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