Rama First Nation chief, health officials recognize health-care partners in minimizing impact of COVID-19

·4 min read

The chief of Rama First Nation near Orillia is crediting its health-care partnerships for minimizing the impact of COVID-19.

Chief Ted Williams said the spirit of co-operation between health agency partners, including Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) and the territory, is the main reason they have only seen four coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. He added that they were all diagnosed last month and all four patients have since recovered.

“We have a first-class health task force that has worked on a plan going back to early March. When (COVID-19) did occur, it was handled with incredible professionalism and we are deeply indebted to our team here,” the chief said. “Our team enacted the contact tracing immediately.”

The chief is also crediting his community members for taking the pandemic seriously and for following the health protocols that have been laid out to avoid contracting the virus.

“We have a lot of different traffic coming into the community. We are a very urbanized community close to the city of Orillia. But we held off the virus for seven months.”

He added that he is proud of the way his community and its health-care professionals have handled COVID-19.

Williams said a meeting is to be held next week to analyze the status of Casino Rama. The popular gambling and entertainment facility has been closed since mid-March. The chief points out that the establishment is operated by a private company, as well as the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation. But, he added, Rama First Nation is the landlord for the facility, which is located on the territory.

Meanwhile, in a written statement issued Nov. 4, Rama’s director of health and social services, Leanne McRae-Douglas, stated that the relationship with Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is one of the key factors in the community’s positive pandemic response.

With the support of Carmine Stumpo, president and CEO of OSMH, and the team at the Couchiching COVID-19 Assessment Centre, Rama First Nation paramedics were trained for COVID-19 assessment and testing before the end of March, the statement reads.

“This made a significant difference in our community with a number of our members who have underlying health conditions. We wanted to get out in front of this and OSMH really helped us achieve that goal,” said McRae-Douglas.

The statement points out that the pandemic came at a time when there was limited access to resources in Ontario. Since the spring, Rama paramedics have conducted more than 800 tests in the community. With a strong public education program and health professionals reaching out to vulnerable areas of the population, Rama remained COVID-19-free until mid-October.

“Our success to date in battling this pandemic locally is a direct result of the spirit of co-operation and partnership that exists between neighbouring health-care agencies. Rama’s health team is a big part of that success and should be commended for the work they’ve done to protect and care for their community,” said Stumpo.

The statement indicates that regular surveillance enables early detection of COVID-19, as in Rama’s experience. Rama’s health-care team followed through in contact tracing to identify and assess individuals possibly exposed to the virus. To date, no further cases have been identified.

Officials stated proactive measures were undertaken in the government administration and the elementary school to ensure that any possible exposures were contained.

Rama First Nation stated that it has worked in unison with OSMH for many years in bringing essential care and services to members. This partnership has resulted in innovative programming, services and resources, such as the position of an Indigenous patient navigator in the hospital that provides valuable assistance to Rama members in accessing the health-care system.

On Oct. 27, Rama Health and Social Services hosted its 35th annual Health and Addictions Fair. The annual events were combined as a drive-thru program to minimize contact. With COVID-19 cases rising in Ontario, the health-care team wanted to take the opportunity to emphasize some of the messaging around COVID-19 prevention strategies.

One memorable message was “Spread Kindness, Not Germs,” a thought sure to resonate well beyond Rama First

John McFadden, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance