Chatham-Kent ready to lend a helping hand in COVID-19 hotspots

·3 min read

’Tis the season of giving and lending a helping hand.

As the number of cases continues to rise in Windsor-Essex and London-Middlesex, some people in Chatham-Kent’s top health sector are lending a hand to those in need.

According to Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Vice President of People and Chief Nursing Executive Lisa Northcott, the local hospitals are making sure there are extra beds available in case the facilities in Windsor or London get overwhelmed with patients.

“We are ensuring we have 15 percent capacity to take patients from Windsor or London if those organizations get into a situation where their occupancy is such that they can’t accommodate those patients,” said Northcott. “As far as other impacts, at this point, we’re not feeling an impact right away based on the cases we see in the London or Windsor area.”

Windsor-Essex County, currently in grey-lockdown, broke its single-day record again on Dec. 18 with 243 new cases. The neighbouring region’s three-day total of 547 cases is nearly as much as Chatham-Kent’s nine-month total of 576.

While those regions haven’t yet sent their own patients to the Chatham hospital, they have returned patients originally from Chatham.

“For those patients, we have very strict protocols in place when they return to Chatham to ensure they’re isolated appropriately for the appropriate period of time just because they’ve been in those areas where there’s a high prevalence of COVID,” said Northcott.

She added that if there is a rise in cases, they can quickly increase the number of staff working and the number of people tested.

From a municipal standpoint, Chatham-Kent’s CAO Don Shropshire said several mutual aid agreements are in place with neighbouring municipalities for things like ambulance and fire and rescue services.

“When it comes to helping people, if there’s a crisis, there are systems in place, and we are doing that,” said Shropshire. “We recognize we have an integrated community with our neighbours, and we will do whatever we can to support them.”

Shropshire also noted more than 70 members of Chatham-Kent’s municipal staff live in Windsor-Essex and have been directed to work from home wherever possible.

According to Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, Chatham-Kent public health workers have assisted their Windsor-Essex County counterparts in the past. However, that help hasn’t been needed lately because Windsor-Essex County has changed its procedures to handle the massive caseload.

“When you’re dealing with the kind of numbers that we see in Windsor-Essex, this will overwhelm the capacity of our combined health unit forces anyway,” said Colby.

Colby also noted he has a “collegial relationship” with Windsor-Essex’s MOH Dr. Wajid Ahmed, adding he is in touch with Dr. Ahmed at least two to three times per week to touch base on various issues both of their jurisdictions are facing.

“We will remain in touch,” said Colby. “We will do our best to help any of our neighbouring jurisdictions that need our help because it could be us in a short while.”

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News