MLAs on the province's Standing Committee on Health say there are pressing issues that need to be addressed before the possible arrival of a second wave of COVID-19 in the province.
The committee met Wednesday to lay out their priorities for the fall. Those included looking at how the start of the school year could push P.E.I.'s testing capability, and how the availability of mental health services has been affected by the pandemic.
"I think it's extremely important that we take a look at that, see what gaps are there during the first phase of this pandemic, and supposedly phase two will be in the near future," said Liberal MLA and committee member Heath MacDonald.
The committee is made up of Conservative cabinet ministers Brad Trivers (Education and Lifelong Learning) and Jamie Fox (Fisheries and Communities), Green MLAs Trish Altass and Hannah Bell and Liberal MLAs Gordon McNeilly and MacDonald.
Stress on Island families
MacDonald says the stress has been piling up on Island families, partially due to uncertainty after programs like CERB or wage subsidies come to an end, and what will happen if people are not called back to their jobs.
"Those are the types of things that cause mental health [problems] ... and anxiety, stress, fear," he said.
"Most recent there's been studies that women have taken the blunt of COVID-19 as far as the mental health side of things."
MLAs on the committee also want to ask government when P.E.I. will we see the roll out of the mobile mental health crisis units, as well as when Unit 9 will reopen.
MacDonald also expressed concern over seniors missing essential medical appointments out of fear or stress, and existing gaps in the home care system that have been exposed by the pandemic.
He says he wants to hear from private home care companies, home care workers and paramedics about what they are hearing in the field.
"I think we can live and learn."
Definite 'increase in the amount of testing'
Green MLA Trish Altass said she wants the committee to look at the province's testing capability as schools head back in a little over two weeks.
According to the province, parents are required to call 8-1-1 to arrange for testing if their child is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. There's a similar requirement for school staff.
"It looks like we're going to be having students tested regularly if they have symptoms," she said. "We think of all the times our children have a cold or flu or just allergies in school.
"We're definitely going to see an increase in the amount of testing that's going to be needed to align with the proposed plans for schools. So are we prepared for that to happen?"
The Public School Branch has said it expects to see more absences as the cold and flu season approaches, and says parents should be "extra diligent".
Altass said she wants to ensure that the testing protocols minimizes the impact on parents and students, which has been echoed by others.
Officials with the Department of Education have said that they recognize there are children with seasonal allergies or other occurrences that could cause a cough, and in those cases, the child could be in school as long as they otherwise felt well.
It said parents should monitor for other symptoms, like fever and extreme tiredness, and keep children home in those instances.
Committee chair Gordon McNeilly said the health committee will be looking at topics through a COVID-19 lens. Altass would also like the committee to look at the province's Dorian response through the new lens of the pandemic, particularly around emergency shelters and power outages.
The topics will be explored in meetings over the coming weeks.
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