Sudbury

Sudbury and area agencies work together to prepare for COVID-19

Agencies from Sudbury and surrounding areas are making plans for how they'll respond if there are any COVID-19 cases in the region. 

Nearly 60 groups came together for a meeting convened by Public Health Sudbury & Districts

Public Health Sudbury & Districts convened the planning meeting, which was attended by nearly 60 agencies. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Agencies from Sudbury and surrounding areas are making plans for how they'll respond if there are any COVID-19 cases in the region. 

On Monday, nearly 60 agencies — ranging from hospitals, to emergency services, to school boards, to First Nations and municipalities — came together for a six-hour workshop, convened by Public Health Sudbury & Districts. The groups discussed plans they already have in place, how they can work together, and what gaps still exist. 

"Everybody left here with a lot of homework to do," said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the medical officer of health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts. 

Sutcliffe said ensuring appropriate measures are in place cannot be the responsibility of a single agency, but rather requires many groups to work together.

Pandemic plan for schools 

A number of agencies at the meeting already have plans in place.

The Rainbow District School Board has had a pandemic plan in place for a number of years, which staff is currently reviewing. The plan includes measures such as tracking reasons for student absences, and enhanced cleaning of schools, if there is a local outbreak. 

"And that means you set aside the dusting, those nice to do things, and you focus more on disinfecting doorknobs, railings, surfaces that are touched a lot," said Nicole Charette, who speaks for the school board. 

Nicole Charette, with the Rainbow District School Board, said the board is reviewing its pandemic plan. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

Following the meeting, Charette said there were some issues brought up which the board will need to address, such as how it would handle a large number of absences among its staff. 

"We have to recognize the possibility that there could be fewer and fewer people available to do the jobs that they normally do, and so that's one of the things that we'll have to take a look at, contingency plans for that area." 

'A lot of questions'

Potential staffing shortages is also an issue top of mind for Joseph Nicholls, the general manager of community safety for the City of Greater Sudbury, and chief of fire and paramedic services. Nicholls said emergency services throughout the north are making plans for how they'll work together and assist each other, if staffing levels are affected by a local outbreak.

He also said there have been extra measures in place since January, when sending paramedics out on calls. Dispatchers are asking callers additional screening questions, about recent travel and symptoms, and paramedics are also screening patients for COVID-19 symptoms when they arrive at a call. 

Joseph Nicholls, general manager of community safety for the City of Greater Sudbury, said paramedics have been taking extra precautions to screen patients since January. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

While Nicholls said the city has solid emergency plans in place, he said there are still more plans that need to be figured out, including how to protect vulnerable populations.

"You can't ask someone who's homeless to self isolate. So how do we deal with that? So these are a lot of questions that came out of today, these are takeaways, these are homework."

"We have a lot of work that  we need to do to figure those pieces out. "

Representatives from nearly 60 agencies came together in Sudbury for a meeting to discuss preparations for any local cases of COVID-19. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Sudbury, Sutcliffe said it's hard to imagine there won't be a case, at some point.

"Given what we've seen happen around the world, to think that Sudbury for some reason, or the North of Ontario would be spared from COVID-19, I can't see how that would happen."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah MacMillan is a reporter with CBC Sudbury. She previously worked with CBC P.E.I. You can contact her at sarah.macmillan@cbc.ca

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