They are not included in the daily tally issued by health units across the province – including Southwestern Public Health in this area – and yet these individuals have been victimized and their lives put on hold by the coronavirus.
And last week’s release of the framework to be adhered to by hospitals is a welcome ray of hope for those whose elective surgeries and procedures also fell victim to COVID-19.
Although it may still be several weeks before ramping up the numbers, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital president and CEO Robert Biron says the preparatory work is underway.
Speaking with him yesterday (Friday), Biron advised the immediate task is to work with other hospitals in the region to create a joint plan so that all hospitals are working “in a lockstep approach.”
He adds, “There is a lot of complexity involved in that because there is a pandemic we have to account for.
“We have to make sure we are allowing enough resources to respond to a crisis, should it occur. Whether it’s in the community with an outbreak of COVID-19 or some of the long-term care facilities, for example, and making sure we have the capacity to respond to an emergency situation.”
That is one of the key planks in the platform introduced by the Doug Ford government.
“Then we have to make sure we balance our inventory for personal protective equipment as well,” indicated Biron.
“That supply chain, although it has gotten better, is still not 100 per cent secured, so we want to make sure we balance all those requirements.”
It’s a significant amount of complex planning that has to be undertaken over the next few weeks, pointed out Biron, “before we can start seeing elective surgeries being reintroduced at the hospital.
“To summarize I think we are a number of weeks out before we can see Phase 1 of recovery, but we are obviously very committed to moving as quickly as we can to reinstate those services.
“It’s all about safety and making sure we can respond should there be a second wave or an outbreak in the community or a long-term care facility.
“There are too many risks we have currently, although things have gotten better as a result of the collective efforts from our community and across the province.
“We know we have been able to bend the curve but we’re certainly not out of the woods yet.”
Biron indicated he had no firm estimate of the number of patients awaiting surgeries but he will pass along an update in the near future.
If you are one of those impacted by the hiatus, hang in there just a little longer.
WE’RE IN A PRETTY GOOD SPOT RIGHT NOW
In support of Robert Biron’s observation of bending the COVID-19 curve is a new statistic released daily by Southwestern Public Health.
It deals with percent positivity and we spoke with medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock on Wednesday regarding the steady downward trend since mid-April.
The figure for the health unit’s coverage area of Elgin, St. Thomas and Oxford is now quite low at 2.3 per cent, which suggests there are not many undetected cases in the community.
“We try and figure out what is going on with the spread of the virus in our community through a variety of different numbers and data elements,” explained Dr. Lock.
“So this (percent positivity) is another one that helps us to see the picture more clearly.
“If we do 100 tests and only two of them are positive, we know there are fewer cases in our community than if we did 100 tests and 15 were positive.
“So the smaller that number gets, the better the picture is,” with regard to the spread of the virus in the community.
“But COVID is a difficult virus to get rid of. I think we are going to end up living with COVID and we are going to have to be on our guard until we get a vaccine.”
“We use that in conjunction with how many new cases we’re getting per week as well as the idea of the doubling time.
“How many days does it take for us to double the number of cases. And all of those indicators have been coming down, which reflects that we’re in a pretty good spot right now.
You just know there is an important ‘but’ to follow.
“But, this doesn’t mean we have to lower our guard,” added Dr. Lock.
“In an ideal world, we would get rid of COVID-19 altogether in Canada like we’ve gotten rid of measles and, in that case, you test 100 people and zero of them would have COVID.
“But COVID is a difficult virus to get rid of. I think we are going to end up living with COVID and we are going to have to be on our guard until we get a vaccine.
“I think if we get percentages down to 2 per cent, we’re doing really well.”
That number once again for Friday was 2.3 per cent.
CANNABIS CULTIVATION COMES IN FOR A LANDING
Back in February, I reported on myFM that more than planes would be taking off at St. Thomas Municipal Airport. MERA Cannabis Corp. is expanding its St. Thomas operations through a leasing agreement with the city.
Last year it was awarded a processing license that allows the firm to produce cannabis products other than by cultivation, enabling it to extract and process its own cannabis oils and other cannabis derivatives.
MERA Cannabis, formerly Avana, is leasing land on an isolated portion of the airport property – which is located in the Municipality of Central Elgin – and has its flagship cultivation, processing and manufacturing facility in St. Thomas.
In preparation for cultivation at the airport, MERA will need to dig a well, which has been approved by the city, according to city manager Wendell Graves.
All of this is not sitting well with Central Elgin residents who live in the vicinity of the airport. And, in a letter to council for Monday’s (May 11) meeting, they have a list of 12 concerns they would like addressed prior to any outdoor cultivation at the airport.
It seems the city did not consult with Central Elgin Mayor Sally Martyn or any of the neighbouring residents about the cannabis operation.
Chris Harris, author of the letter to council, notes in the past area residents were given advance notice of activities at the airport including the air show and a plan to spread sludge on the property.
Residents were not only notified, but their input was solicited.
Harris notes, according to the Cannabis Licensing Application Guide, applicants for licenses to cultivate “must provide a written notice to local authorities.”
That includes the local government, fire and police officials.
Their list of a dozen concerns relates to water usage and impacts on water quality; pesticide and fertilizer usage; odour; physical and psychological health and well-being; traffic and noise and removal and disposal of waste products.
Not to mention concerns related to property values, quality of life and the possibility of on-site processing of cannabis.
The concerned citizens are requesting delegation status at an upcoming council meeting and a halt to cultivation plans until a meeting with residents, the company and municipal councils in Central Elgin and St. Thomas is arranged to respond to all of the concerns.
With all of the corporation’s business requiring council meetings that generally require in the range of 30 minutes to complete and with a vacant seat that members see no need to fill quickly, it is curious that Monday’s (May 11) agenda has an item dealing with the position of deputy mayor.
Is there a need for one and, if so, is this individual elected or appointed?
This stems from a discussion during a reference committee meeting back in January. At that time, Mayor Joe Preston observed, in his opinion, “this council size is too large.”
Preston would feel more comfortable with a mayor and either four or five councillors, with the office of the mayor being a full-time position.
The current practice sees an acting mayor appointed if the mayor is absent for a council meeting or is away for an extended period of time.
That has not been necessary for this current term of council.
In a report to members from clerk Maria Konefal, she notes of 10 similar-sized municipalities, only three have deputy mayors: Tillsonburg, Strathroy-Caradoc and Owen Sound.
In the latter two municipalities, the deputy mayor is elected at large and in Tillsonburg, the position is filled by appointment.
The no deputy mayor camp includes Woodstock, Stratford, Sarnia, Belleville, Welland, Cornwall and Orillia.
That finding may address Coun. Mark Tinlin’s question from 2017 when the previous council debated the same matter and he observed, “I am surprised a city this size does not have a deputy mayor.”
All lower-tier municipalities in Elgin county do have deputy mayors.
Should members chose to alter the composition of council to include a deputy mayor through an electoral process, a bylaw would have to be enacted by the end of next year to be in effect for the 2022 municipal election.
A deputy mayor can be appointed by council or the mayor for a pre-determined period of time or for the full four-year term of council.
Now comes the bottom line.
If the city is to get an elected deputy mayor, that person’s annual salary would fall somewhere between $24,000 (average councillor’s pay) and $65,000 (approximate salary for the mayor)
If the decision is made to appoint a deputy mayor for an extended period of time, remuneration would have to be determined.
It will be interesting to hear the justification for such a position and the additional financial outlay in this pandemic-battered economy of ours.
ONE TO WATCH
Also on Monday’s agenda, an update from Mayor Joe Preston regarding a possible extension to the 60-day timeframe to fill the vacant council seat.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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