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Region redeploys health care staff to help combat pandemic

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Durham Region has redeployed a number of its workers to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Glendene Collins, a spokesperson for the region’s health department, 55 non-nursing health department staff, and 141 nursing staff were redeployed from other nursing program areas to assist with COVID-19.

Dr. Robert Kyle, the region’s chief medical officer of health, says these employees were sent to the COVID-19 response team.

“We have staff deployed to that… and on the nursing side, we basically ramped down all of our other programming,” says Kyle.

That would include immunization, the region’s family health programs, healthy living programs, and sexual health programs, he says.

“All of those, staff have been redeployed to the COVID-19 response, and the others come from our other divisions, some of which the programming has been shut down,” he says.

That includes oral health staff, but Kyle notes the region is still providing assessments for emergency dental care, although routine dental care has been shut down.

They’ve also assigned staff from the Healthy Babies Healthy Children program, and from the Infant and Child Development program.

“Pretty well all of the public health programming [have been redeployed], with the exception of our public health inspectors, who are involved in a variety of ways… as part of their normal duties,” says Kyle

For paramedics he says assignments have been business as usual, but call volumes are down.

Kyle explains the redeployed workers will focus on case and contact management.

This means the staff members will check in periodically to make sure people with a reported case of COVID-19 are self-isolating.

He adds if they aren’t following the instructions, the infected will be subject to a class order issued by Kyle, and public health inspectors would follow up.

For those who haven’t been tested yet, Kyle says they will be counselled, and the health department will facilitate their testing at the physician assessment centre operated by Lakeridge Health.

“Then, depending on the test results, they’ll either be cleared or placed in self-isolation,” he says.

For confirmed cases, they will do contact management, which Kyle says is based on inquiring about a case, where they’ve been and who they’ve been in contact with. He adds in particular they would ask questions around their high-risk contacts.

“Those would include family members, if they’re from a healthcare setting that could be related to the type of work they’re doing,” he says.

Those at high risk would then be told to self-isolate for 14 days. If they are at medium or low-risk, they would then be asked to self-monitor.

“It’s based on a risk assessment that we would do,” says Kyle.

Kyle emphasizes it’s important to continue practicing social distancing, as COVID-19 is still a problem.

“We get reported to us anywhere from 10 to 25 cases per day… roughly about half are community related, and half are institutional related – it varies,” he says.

Kyle explains even though businesses and services are reopening, it’s still important to follow public health messaging, and hygiene.

“Community transmission continues to occur in Durham Region. So as businesses and services slowly reopen, it’s important to follow the public health messaging related to those particular sectors,” he says.