OWEN SOUND – Sue Paterson, mayor of Hanover, has been elected chair of the Grey Bruce Board of Health.
She replaces Mitch Twolan, mayor of Huron-Kinloss, who served an extended term as board chair to see the area through the worst of the COVID-19 crisis.
In accepting her appointment, Paterson thanked Twolan for his “outstanding leadership for the past two years.”
The office of vice-chair remains vacant for the time being. Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, said Anne Eadie, mayor of Kincardine, is interested in the position but was not able to be at the board of health meeting due to a scheduling conflict. Peabody said he, too would be interested.
Brian Milne, deputy mayor of Southgate, was nominated for the vice-chair position but said he would decline if someone from Bruce County agreed to stand for election. Traditionally, when the chair is from Grey County, the vice-chair is from Bruce, and vice versa.
The board agreed to leave the election for vice-chair until the January meeting.
The board welcomed aboard a new provincial appointee, Helen-Claire Tingling, who is from the Hanover-Bentinck area. She has an extensive list of credentials in health care and government, and said recently she has been “using the arts to educate on social issues.”
Dr. Ian Arra commented on a piece of correspondence – an Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) resolution for National Addiction Awareness Week.
Arra noted that while the area has had no deaths from COVID-19, there have been “at least 15 deaths” due to opioids. “It’s a crisis we need to tackle,” he added, saying that if the area were not in the midst of a pandemic, the opioid crisis would be the number one public health priority.
The OBIAA resolution stated in part that “while the world comes together in the fight against COVID-19 … a fight for our lives, our main streets are also fighting for their very existence … During this focused fight we must not lose sight of the other pandemic that is affecting our lives and the lives of thousands – the opioid crisis.” The resolution calls for the governments of Canada and Ontario to “recognize, acknowledge and declare a national health crisis (epidemic) and work with the provinces and municipalities to develop comprehensive, adequately funded drug strategies to address this health issue.”
In closing, the OBIAA resolution said, “If we do not focus on this, the COVID recovery process will be hampered. Therefore, if there was ever a time to create a national approach to the opioid crisis, it is now.”
In later discussion, the board agreed to go a step further than endorsing the resolution; it will send its own letter.
Alan Barfoot of Georgian Bluffs asked how this year’s numbers (of drug-related fatalities) compare to last year’s.
Arra said there has been no change.
“A stable number of deaths is not a success. We want the numbers going down,” he said.
Arra told the board about two fatal drug poisonings that took place near Owen Sound and in Hanover on Dec. 11. The substance involved is believed to be fentanyl or carfentanil. In one case, the drug was in the form of a whitish pink substance.
Mention was made during the meeting of the new “sharps” kiosk in Owen Sound, aimed at helping to minimize the danger from illegal drug use.
A number of press releases have been issued recently about COVID-19. Most involve how the health unit is handling cases in schools. To date, there has been no evidence of transmission in schools, and therefore no outbreaks.
One recent press release asked parents to rethink children’s playdates and birthday parties, stating, “We urge everyone to stay within the guidelines and stay safe by limiting engagement with others outside your immediate family. It may not be clear why you should not see other people in your own home when things like school and shopping are still happening. The difference lies in the rules and guidelines around schools and shopping that do not apply in the home.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times