Hospital situation still not resolved as Brockton deals with new COVID measures

·3 min read

BROCKTON – Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody met Tuesday morning with his municipality’s emergency group.

Peabody said the decision was made to keep the municipal office open, the thought being that the glassed-in entrance provided staff with “a strong level of safety.”

The municipality’s recreation department will be taking a major hit, with the temporary closure of the arena. The ice is staying in, with the expectation the closure will be lifted by month’s end. In addition, recreation department staff are busy working on the skate track in Lobies Park (weather permitting) and tree pruning along the River Trail.

As with other businesses, the municipality will have to determine which members of office staff will be working from home. Peabody said it’s difficult for the finance department to do that, since they need access to the files at the office, especially at budget time. Staff will be working at home in rotation, in cohorts, to minimize the chance of COVID spreading among the entire staff.

Peabody said a memo went out Christmas Eve from the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, advising municipalities to expect an absentee rate of 30 per cent in January. In response, all department heads in Brockton came up with contingency plans. This includes fire, water, sewer and snow removal. An example of plans for snow removal, if the absentee rate climbs according to expectations, would be to declare a snow emergency and cut back on the level of service on some roads. The remaining drivers would continue snow removal efforts, and plowing roads would take longer.

The mayor expressed concern for parents of younger children. “They’re very stressed out with child care and online learning,” he said. “I hope it’s only for two weeks.”

Peabody has long been an advocate for improved ventilation in schools and a higher quality of mask, and he said he’s pleased to hear the province plans to use those two weeks to implement additional safety measures in the form of ventilation and N-95 respirators. He noted N-95s for children are in short supply and said he hopes there are enough of them. “We have to get these proper safety measures in place.”

Ontario is the only province to take this step. Peabody said, “I hope it’s enough.”

The spike in COVID cases has had a devastating impact on health workers across the province, Peabody said, commenting that a couple of Toronto-area hospitals had to call a “code orange” earlier in the week due to so many nurses off sick.

The situation makes it difficult to separate the two related problems Brockton is facing: the general nursing shortage, and the shortage caused by health workers getting COVID.

“We need to focus on both issues,” Peabody said.

He noted that as of press time, the hospital situation that led to the overnight closure of the Walkerton emergency room had not been resolved.

“I continue to be quite concerned,” the mayor said. A motion on the third-party review of the nursing shortage will be brought before council on Jan. 11, in response to the county’s wish to see Brockton take the lead on the matter.

Peabody said he hasn’t heard from Ontario Health yet, although he’s pleased to note MPP Bill Walker, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, has said he continues to make the hospital situation in Walkerton and Chesley a priority.

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times

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