By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports from the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge board of health meeting held virtually on Nov. 18.
Winter can bring increased cases of COVID-19 alongside influenza season and the health unit is working to provide vaccinations for both even as an increase in other respiratory illnesses is reported.
To date, COVID-19 cases have been low locally with a small increase – at press time, only one unresolved case had been reported in Haliburton County – but surges have happened throughout the province in the past few weeks. While influenza season peaks from December to February, nine lab-confirmed influenza cases have been reported in Ontario already.
“Although local COVID-19 activity has been low throughout October and the beginning of November, we are experiencing respiratory outbreaks due to other pathogens,” said Bocking in her report to the board. “Increased activity of rhinovirus, parainfluenza virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus has resulted in several outbreaks among childcare centres, long-term care homes, and retirement homes.”
The universal influenza immunization program launched Oct. 15, with flu shots being available at primary care provider offices and also pharmacies – in Haliburton County that includes Pharmasave in Dorset; Shoppers Drug Mart, Haliburton Highland Pharmacy, Rexall and Independent’s drug store in Haliburton; Pharmasave and Highland Remedy’s Rx pharmacy in Minden and at Wilberforce pharmacy. Clinics are also being held for kids younger than five who do not have a primary healthcare provider. For more information visit www.hkpr.on.ca or call 1-866-888-4577, ext. 1507.
Board of health urges restoration of vision services
The HKPR board of health wrote to Ontario’s Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Dr. Sheldon Salaba, president of Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) regarding the dispute between optometrists and the ministry of health which is resulting in a current lack of vision services for patients under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
“As you are aware, as of September 1, 98 per cent of optometrists have discontinued services for the 2.9 million patients covered for eye care under OHIP, including children under 19, people 65 and older and those with certain eye conditions,” reads the letter from the board of health. “This is of particular concern given the concurrent suspension of many public health unit run vision screening programs for children across the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs aim to detect vision issues amongst senior kindergarten students and refer them to local optometrists for follow-up. Even if public health programs were to be reinstated, with no optometrist services available for referrals, children will continue to be left at risk of undetected vision issues as well as other missed diagnoses.”
The letter notes an urgency for the ministry and the OAO to re-enter discussions, “with the goal of restoring vision services as soon as possible for vulnerable Ontarians.”
On Nov. 22, the OAO and government entered formal negotiations, with job action pausing and eye exams resuming as of Nov. 23.