by Kirk Winter

The pandemic’s impact on health unit staff is becoming a “real concern,” medical officer of health, Dr. Natalie Bocking, told the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s May 20 meeting.

“Over 80 per cent of staff have been redeployed to support the COVID-19 response, many while also continuing to support other essential/critical services (mandated by) the Ontario Public Health Standards,” Bocking said.

Since March 2021, she said the human resource department has worked with a staffing agency to hire 50 additional temporary staff to support the COVID-19 response.

This represents a 35 per cent increase to the staff complement to support call centre, contact tracing, administration, and mass immunization clinics.

However, “despite the ongoing attempts to bring on additional supports, workloads for health unit staff remain high,” Bocking said.

She added the mass immunization clinics are the most taxing activity, since they require significant human resource support.

Each clinic runs with 12-15 health unit/community partner staff and 15-20 volunteers, depending on the size of the clinic. Based on vaccine supply, one to three clinics are operated each day in addition to a mobile team that offers clinics in vulnerable settings.

Bocking discussed other COVID-19- driven activities that are taxing staff to their limits including contact tracing and responsibility for all aspects of the vaccine roll-out.

“Preventing the ongoing transmission of the COVID-19 virus continues to require significant health unit focus and resources,” Bocking said. “HKPRDHU has divided this virus containment work between four teams. In the past month, the number of newly-reported cases per day have ranged from three to 36 (all of which require tracing). The number of outbreaks occurring at any given time has ranged from one to nine. Staff members are being cross-trained to support multiple teams.”

Bocking reminded board members that staff continue to coordinate the ongoing roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination across all three geographic regions the unit services.

“Demand and uptake of the vaccine has been high, and supply of vaccine has slowly begun to increase,”

Bocking said. “Many municipal, community, and health sector partners are supporting the roll-out through multiple avenues.

“The health unit is currently responsible for managing inventory of all vaccine coming to the region (except for vaccine for pharmacies), supervising cold-chain compliance for vaccine distribution, managing five mass immunization clinics in collaboration with partners, implementing mobile clinics in other congregate care settings and responding to reports of adverse events following immunization.”

Bocking said that the unit was beginning to turn it mind post-pandemic recovery and a gradual, staged transition to regular business.

“Recovery efforts will require dedicated resources.”

Statement of operations presented

The health unit reported on its spending for the first four months of 2021.

It has spent $3.964 million of its’ $11.892 million budget with pandemic response, the Ontario

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