Mandatory wearing of face masks: ‘It’s becoming our new second nature’


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The feelers have been out there for some time now, and last week’s interview with Dr. Joyce Lock, Southwestern Public Health medical officer of health, confirmed the wearing of face masks in enclosed public places was soon to be mandatory in this COVID-19 marathon.
Dr. Lock sealed the deal via a teleconference Thursday (July 30).
There are those who will argue this should have been done back in the spring as the pandemic embers flared into a full-blown blaze.
Our neighbour to the north made the wearing of face coverings compulsory exactly two weeks ago, so why the lag time in the health unit’s watershed?
Dr. Lock touched on that last week noting, “we’re working step in step with our municipal partners to make it as simple a process as possible for individuals, businesses and organizations across our geography.”

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‘We’ve been able to bend the curve, but we’re not out of the woods yet’


city_scope_logo-cmykThey 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.

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Hospice for Elgin ‘is not a luxury item. It is absolutely an essential service’


city_scope_logo-cmyk“This is not a luxury hotel. It is an appropriate place for end-of-life care in a cost-effective manner.”
Coun. Linda Stevenson’s observation at the Jan. 16 reference committee was typical of the words of support from council members for the Hospice of Elgin, a 10-bed palliative care facility which, when built, would serve the residents of St. Thomas and Elgin county.
Trouble is, neither municipality has come forward and put dollars on the table.
Even though in September of last year, Deputy Premier Christine Elliott pledged $1.6 million pledge toward construction of the hospice at a yet-to-be-determined location.
Plus, the province will provide $840,000 annually toward the operating costs. The annual funding is projected to cover approximately 50 per cent of the hospice operating costs.
Late last month, the county played its cards in the form of a letter from Warden Dave Mennill to city council advising municipal officials there resolved “to support the Elgin Hospice Group through non-financial measures but declined to offer financial support.”
In a conversation with after this week’s reference committee, he elaborated further.
“It won’t be financial support because we are tied to 2023.”
That’s when the county’s financial commitment to The Great Expansion at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is fulfilled.

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As St. Thomas positions itself for growth, the financial reality looms


city_scope_logo-cmykBy the year 2041, the city’s population is projected to exceed 50,000.
To accommodate this influx, the city will need to adjust its urban area boundary as part of a review of its official plan.
The city is undertaking – with input from residents – a project it identifies as Positioned for Growth.
The study will assemble the required planning and engineering reports to support the preferred expansion lands and bring them into the urban area boundary to designate for development.
Concurrently the city is identifying recreational and cultural infrastructure and the fire protection services required to support this growth in the coming decades.
Representatives from Dillon Consulting in Kitchener met with council at Monday’s reference committee meeting with a draft copy of its fire station location study.

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Hospice of Elgin: An investment ‘in more than bricks and mortar’


city_scope_logo-cmykFour months ago, the province green-lighted an end-of-life residential hospice for St. Thomas and Elgin.
And Thursday (Jan. 16) city council got an enhanced picture of what the palliative care facility will look like and feel once inside.
In her presentation to Mayor Joe Preston and councillors, Laura Sherwood, director of hospice partnerships with St. Joseph’s Health Care Society, detailed the pressing need for the Hospice of Elgin, which will serve the only county in southwestern Ontario currently without a community-based hospice.
Sherwood noted each year, more than 800 people in St. Thomas and Elgin die without adequate services, “placing tremendous pressures on families, caregivers, and our local health care system.”
Within the next dozen years or so, that figure is expected to increase by as much as 50 per cent.

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A clear case of neglect, however ‘reasonable doubt’ lingers in the death of Lady


city_scope_logo-cmykJustice Glen Donald’s judgement Friday (Nov. 15) at the Elgin County Courthouse infuriated the fur baby fans in the front row but, in the end, he had no other option.
Following a three-day trial last month in which Tarrick Fakira-Martin – charged with unlawfully killing his dog, Lady – often wept and buried his head in his hands at graphic witness testimony, Justice Donald acquited him but noted there was no question the dog had been neglected.
Fakira-Martin was charged last July after St. Thomas Police received reports from residents in the area of St. Catherine and Meda streets regarding the well-being of a dog.
He pleaded not guilty to charges of injuring an animal on the trial’s opening day, Oct. 7.
Fakira-Martin has always maintained the dog drowned in Kettle Creek near an area known to some as Suicide Hill.

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Commemorative plaque to honour the 20 souls lost in Elgin county’s worst disaster


The evening prior to Halloween, 1941, saw light rain and fog blanket Elgin county and through that murk, American Airlines Flight 1 lost its struggle to remain airborne, hurtling into a field southwest of St. Thomas.
About two hundred yards distant, in a second-floor bedroom of Thompson and Viola Howe’s farmhouse, five-year-old Ken slept peacefully, oblivious to the flaming wreckage visible from his window.
Thompson Howe was in the barn around 10:30 p.m. when the DC-3, christened Flagship Erie and en route to Detroit from Buffalo, hit the ground with such an impact it shook the ground as he completed the chores for the day.
Viola Howe, who witnessed the crash, had expressed concern when she saw the plane circling, apparently in distress. Her fear was the craft would hit the farmhouse.
In fact, there is speculation that perhaps the pilot, at the last minute, did all he could to avoid further loss of life. Continue reading

EPAR 01 final recommendations on school closings and realignments to be presented at April 11 TVDSB meeting


The final recommendations of the Senior Administration Report – Elementary Pupil Accommodation Review 01 will be presented at the Thames Valley District School Board’s April 11 meeting, to be followed by a public meeting in May.
The report is 1,458 pages in length with 44 recommendations. Here are the 42 that directly impact schools in St. Thomas and Elgin. The full report can be accessed here
1. THAT Sparta Public School close effective June 30, 2018.
2. THAT New Sarum Public School close effective June 30, 2020 contingent upon Ministry of Education approval of capital funding for the new Belmont Public School and the new Southeast St. Thomas Public School.

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A new spirit of neighbourly cooperation?


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The city’s incoming municipal council will be sworn in Monday and, prior to that, members will undergo an orientation and training session today in the council chamber at city hall.
It is an opportunity for the newcomers to gain an introduction to the city’s procedural bylaws and code of conduct . . . matters of protocol several out-going members apparently did not familiarize themselves with.
Picking up on our discussion last week with Mayor Heather Jackson, we asked her about the city’s relationship with neighbouring municipalities — not always of a harmonious nature in areas like tourism promotion and marketing.
“We have work with our neighbours and we have to work with the county,” stressed Jackson. “Let’s get a liaison meeting set up early in the new year. I want their new council to get to know our new council . . . so we can continue to build a relationship.
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