Local health care providers ready to handle COVID-19

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MANITOULIN – Health care providers across Manitoulin Island are prepared to deal with COVID-19 if it reaches Manitoulin Island. Representatives of the health care organizations who met recently said the risk of the deadly virus is small, but they will be prepared if it does arrive.

“As health organizations we need to be prepared for it, and think in terms of expecting it here,” stated Dr. Stephen Cooper, co-chair of a committee that has been created by leaders from various health organizations across Manitoulin Island that met in relation to the COVID-19 threat. 

Leaders from various health organizations across Manitoulin Island met on February 20 to plan in case COVID-19 comes to Manitoulin. Organizations represented at this meeting included the Manitoulin Health Centre, Manitoulin Central Family Health Team, Assiginack Family Health Team, Northeast Manitoulin Family Health Team, Gore Bay Medical Centre, Wikwemikong Health Centre, M’Chigeeng Health Services, Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, Mnaamodzawin Health Services, Manitoulin Lodge, Manitoulin Centennial Manor, Wikwemikong Nursing Home, Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Public Health Sudbury and Districts.

“The risk of COVID-19 remains small on Manitoulin,” said a joint organization release. “Our group is motivated by a desire to reduce the spread of the virus if it does come to the Island. We are working together as professionals to have the best possible co-ordinated responses for our communities.”

Dr. Robert Hamilton of the Gore Bay Medical Centre told the Recorder, “in fact, there has been more than one meeting. Yesterday’s meeting (February 20) was held to co-ordinate everything and put a strategy in place. We had been provided information from Public Health Ontario and Public Health Sudbury and Districts to get prepared in case.” 

Dr. Cooper said “this was a Public Health Sudbury and District health procedure initiative. He said part of the plan, “is to provide outreach assessments in homes of people who have symptoms and need to be tested for the virus. This would reduce people coming to our agencies and possibly passing on the virus to others. This would be a first step.” He said if someone shows the symptoms of the virus, like sore muscles or a persistent cough, and may have been in contact with the virus by having travelled to China or if someone they know has travelled there or been exposed to the virus, they should call the clinic. 

However, “if the situation ever arose that we had lots of cases locally we would have to deal with it on a different basis,” said Dr. Cooper. He said a priority is making sure health care staff are well protected. We want to make sure any patients who have the virus are not spreading it to other people.”

“I’m sure the health groups will continue to meet,” said Dr. Cooper. “As I mentioned, we want to make sure health care staff are well protected. We want them to be healthy at work and that is why we want them to be protected as much as possible if they encounter a patient who shows signs of symptoms of the virus. So, they will be wearing masks, for instance, in these situations.”

“The second part is to allow for flow of patients to be clear and know what questions they need to ask if they suspect they have the virus, and to minimize the chance or opportunity of contracting the virus or spreading it to others,” said Dr. Cooper. “Right now, what we’re suggesting if people think they may have contracted the disease is to call the clinic.”  

“One strategy will be to provide home visits for people who need to be tested, to avoid coming to the hospital. Anyone who is concerned that they have been exposed to the virus should call to get more information. During office hours, please call your local clinic: Assiginack Family Team, 705-859-2170; Gore Bay Medical Centre, 705-282-2262; Manitoulin Central Family Health Team, 705-377-5371, M’Chigeeng Health Services, 705-377-5347; Mnaamodzawin Health Services, 705-368-2182; Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, 705-368-2182; Northeast Manitoulin Family Health Team, 705-368-2450; Wikwemikong Health Centre, 705-859-3164. After hours, call the Manitoulin Health Centre’s Little Current site at 705-369-2300, or the Mindemoya site at 705-377-5311.

Information can also be found through Public Health Ontario website at PublicHealthOntario.ca.