Cobden – Whitewater Township staff will continue to help the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU) with registering people who want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The only difference is the two will sign a Memorandum of Understanding.
In a report to council by Clerk Carmen Miller, it was noted that since the vaccine roll-out, RCDHU staff and community partners have answered over 10,000 phone calls. Community partners receive an Excel spread sheet with a list of individuals and their contact information, whom they are to contact.
There are currently 13 municipalities and paramedic services assisting with the vaccine registration.
Chief Administrative Officer Robert Tremblay said Ms. Miller has put in 52 hours to date, but that means it’s 52 less hours of her own job. He suggested limiting her to five hours a week, which would have minimum impact on staff.
He also noted while the township received funding to help with COVID expenses, that money is going to other expenses, not to cover administrative costs for helping the health unit.
Councillor Charlene Jackson questioned if there are staff who are willing to volunteer, similar to what other people are doing, including nurses and doctors.
Noting she was already vaccinated, Coun. Jackson said there are people who are waiting days for a call back.
“We need to get all the vaccines in the arms we can,” she said.
Ms. Miller said one of the problems is people are calling the registration line two, three and four times, instead of just once.
“For each person who calls three, four or five times, we have to call them back,” she said.
It’s understandable that if they don’t receive a call back by the end of the day, they get anxious and make another call to the registration phone number, Ms. Miller added.
Mr. Tremblay said staff are getting paid, but there are duties that need to be done in Whitewater Region too.
“Carmen is doing well for us,” he said, in helping out the health unit.
Councillor Jackson was not concerned where the money for staff was coming from.
Councillor Neil Nicholson agreed with her.
“I don’t care about the money,” he said. “It’s important for us to participate. Is Carmen only calling Whitewater residents?”
Ms. Miller said she is calling anyone in Renfrew County.
“I get a bundle of voice mails to return,” she said.
When questioned by Mayor Mike Moore if there will be more COVID funding, Mr. Tremblay said the last $18,000 was a surprise.
“I’m sure there will be more,” he said.
Mr. Tremblay suggested prioritizing existing duties to ensure the township continues to assist the health unit.
Coun. Nicholson said he realized making the phone calls hampers Ms. Miller’s ability to do anything else, but added getting the vaccine to those who want it is important.
He also was not aware the vaccine shots could be given in pharmacies.
He suggested council be more informed of what’s going on so that when questioned they can respond to questions from residents.
Mr. Tremblay said the health unit releases information to the media at least twice a week.
Coun. Jackson suggested the releases also be put on the township’s website.
Mr. Tremblay said staff member Debbie Ready puts the information on the township’s Facebook page and can now add it to the website page as well as sending releases to council members.
Connie Tabbert, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader