While the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in long-term care homes across the province, you only have to look at first-rate facilities like Elgin Manor and Valleyview Home to witness the flip side of the pandemic coin.
Neither facility had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and we talked at length with Valleyview administrator Michael Carroll about that and he credits the loyal staff and ongoing support from the city.
“The staff here are excellent,” observed Carroll. “They are providing great care to the residents. They are very diligent in protecting themselves when they are out in the community.”
Elaborating on diligence Carroll notes, “They are very diligent in ensuring that they are screening themselves for any symptoms of COVID-19 or any sickness for that matter.
“They’re calling in, they’re getting tested and staying home to not bring anything into the home.”
With regard to city support Carroll points out, “They have been extremely supportive of Valleyview and always have been. And they have good resources in place, not just for COVID-19 but even in year’s past they ensured our supplies were more than adequate for a pandemic.
“Even this year in the budget, they increased staffing levels. We added new personal support workers which was a great asset to us at this particular point in time.
“And, when we started to rev up when we saw what was coming with COVID, the city was very supportive in bringing on extra staff and summer students, which usually wouldn’t start until June but we ramped up and brought them on in March just in case we needed those extra people.
“Back in March, we didn’t know if St. Thomas was going to be in a similar situation as Toronto finds itself in. We had to be ready for that.”
“Society is going to have to decide whether or not it wants to put resources, time and money, into long-term care homes and increase the standards across the entire sector in the province and across the country.”
Carroll summed up the past three months by observing you have to be vigilant every day regarding protocols covering hand washing and wearing masks.
“And it’s easy to slip. If something becomes routine you don’t think about it as much and you can easily slip back into your old ways.”
The wearing of masks is a particularly important factor moving forward, suggests Carroll.
“If the home suspects it might be harbouring some kind of a virus, we might jump to wearing a mask more easily than we did in the past.”
He firmly believes the province’s mandate to wear masks in the long-term care system “was an excellent move.”
Carroll feels weathering the pandemic “is an opportunity for society in general as to the type of care and level of care it wants to provide to its vulnerable populations.
“Not just long-term care but the homeless, for example. Society is going to have to decide whether or not it wants to put resources, time and money, into long-term care homes and increase the standards across the entire sector in the province and across the country.”
Carroll refers to it as “rejuvenating long-term care in the province.”
He cautions, until an effective COVID-19 vaccine is developed, “Our population here at Valleyview and long-term care homes across the province are always going to be vulnerable to COVID-19 and so it’s going to be quite a new normal until that day comes.”
PANDEMIC PUTS PROJECTS ON HOLD
As the city’s director of finance Dan Sheridan noted last month, the financial implications of the coronavirus are somewhere in the range of $500,000 as estimated through to the end of the year.
In a report to council for Monday’s (June 8) meeting, it is clearly evident the pandemic is about to impact a variety of capital works projects scheduled for this year.
As Sheridan outlines in his report to council, all of this year’s undertakings in the $40 million capital budget have been broken down into four categories to determine which should proceed as planned, keeping in mind the financial implications of the pandemic.
Categories 3 and 4 are of great interest.
The former are projects on hold now and will be re-evaluated in September to assess their viability this year. About $7.5 million worth of projects is listed here.
As Sheridan points out, if not undertaken this year it would result in tax levy savings of just shy of $1 million which could help offset potential COVID-19 losses.
Some of the items include vehicle and equipment replacement, some of which would impact St. Thomas Transit upgrades; renovations to the main fire hall; playground development at Pinafore Park; and slate roof work at city hall.
Category 4 encompasses projects on hold now and to be re-evaluated next year. The total value of these is $13.7 million.
There are some high priority items in this listing including considerable reconstruction and improvements at the airport; sewer and water main rehabilitation; and construction of the new childcare centre to be located on the St. Catharine Street parking lot, across from the former Colin McGregor Justice Building.
This is of particular interest as it was to initially be included in Phase 2 of the city’s social services and housing hub at 230 Talbot Street until the business case proved “soft,” according to the city manager.
Of note, the city has received $2.6 million in funding for the much-needed childcare space, with the understanding it must be operational by December of 2020.
We checked in with Graves for clarification on the childcare facility and he assured the project will, indeed, move forward at some point and the province has given the municipality some wiggle room on the financing due to the ongoing pandemic.
All of which underscores the impact of COVID-19 will ripple far further than the projected $500,000 financial implications.
It’s not just another year dealing with the seasonal flu.
IN THE MARKET FOR SKILL-BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES
Following up on last week’s item detailing CULTIVATE Virtual Farmers’ Market, it will open for business beginning 8 a.m. tomorrow (June 7).
The market is operated by young people at the Talbot Teen Centre under the guidance of manager Vicki Asher.
The ‘Shop Now’ link on their Facebook page will become active at that time and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday with 20 local farmers and producers signed up at this point.
Items available for shoppers range from fresh fruits and vegetables to meat, fish, prepared foods, bread and croissants.
For baked goods, they will be made overnight Wednesday for pickup on Thursday.
Customers can pick up their items that afternoon at the back door of the Talbot Teen Centre on Talbot Street, where young people will direct traffic and load your vehicle with purchases while maintaining social distancing.
Pick-up is between 3 and 6 p.m. every Thursday.
Asher notes, “We have a team of 15 youth who have signed up to be volunteers in CULTIVATE. Again, this is all about skill-building. They applied just as they would if they had applied for a paying job in the workforce.”
Asher adds they were all interviewed and were given feedback on how they handled the process.
“They were given schedules and they will have a health and safety video to watch as it is all about skill-building.”
So, as Asher reminds, while you shop local you are supporting local youth.
RE-ADAPTING HERITAGE BUILDINGS
As expected, city council last Monday approved a motion to allow institutional uses at the former Wellington Street School in an effort to make the heritage building more attractive to potential tenants.
As to potential uses city manager Wendell Graves notes, “When we acquired the property we initially worked with Algoma University to make sure the zoning was established. But it was pretty confining and this will allow us to think about office-type uses and supports.
“We believe that is going to garner a broader range of tenants who may be interested in the site.”
The building does have an elevator and Graves explains, “Just like any other lease, we would work through a process of what does a tenant require, under the guise of we’re dealing with a heritage building as well.”
As has been the case with the CASO station Graves stresses, “The appropriate re-adaptive use of those heritage buildings is important.”
And, as noted last week, a public meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. on June 24.
FOR THE CALENDAR
While the supply of blood is in pretty good shape at this time, a donor clinic will be held Wednesday (June 10) to ensure adequate stock is on hand as surgeries begin to ramp up at hospitals.
Things will look and feel different, however, as St. Thomas hosts its first such event since the pandemic began. It will be held at the YMCA on High Street instead of the Joe Thornton Centre and will operate from 2:30 to 7:30 p.m., but because of COVID-19 restrictions, you will have to book an appointment which you easily do online at blood.ca.
Questions and comments may be emailed to City Scope
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