The Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s Board of Health has issued a Position Statement laying out its concerns about the Ford government’s aggressive plan to restructure public health, warning that it could have significant long and short-term impacts on the local community.
The government made the surprise announcement in the recently released 2019 provincial budget, outlining its plan to cut the number of public health units in Ontario from 35 local health units to 10 larger regional entities over the next two years. It has also announced plans to slash provincial funding of public health by $200 million, offloading a significant portion of public health funding from the province to municipalities. The cut in provincial funding is effective immediately despite the fact that municipalities were given no advance warning, and have already planned and started spending their budgets for the current year.
The province has provided few details about the restructuring, leaving the EOHU and municipalities uncertain about how the changes will be implemented. A major concern is that while municipalities will be expected to pay more, they could have less decision-making power when it comes to how public health programs are delivered locally. Moving governance of public health services from the eastern counties to a broader regional area could reduce the capacity to address the unique public health needs of the eastern counties (serving rural populations, higher rates of chronic diseases and poverty, reduced access to primary healthcare). In a larger regionalized model, public health’s ability to respond quickly to local emergencies and health threats – such as disease outbreaks or flood emergencies – may also be negatively affected.
“Having a local presence with close ties to community partners and residents has ensured that the health unit is well-positioned to respond to local needs,” states Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health. He adds that the EOHU provides a wide range of essential public health programs, including immunization clinics, infectious disease outbreak management (including the recent follow up of measles contacts), low-income dental clinics, well-baby programs for families who don’t have access to pediatricians or family physicians, water safety monitoring, inspections of local food premises and more. “We’re very concerned that moving to a larger regional model, combined with significant cuts to funding, could compromise the public health services that protect the health and safety of our region’s residents.”
With a heat wave on its way, here are some tips from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit on how to stay cool.
Drink plenty of cool liquids, especially water, before you feel thirsty to decrease your risk of dehydration. Thirst is not a good indicator of dehydration.
- It’s important to know that children may not feel thirsty but will still need to drink regularly.
- Remind yourself to drink water by leaving a glass by the sink.
- Flavouring water with natural fruit juice may make it more appealing.
- Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made from breathable fabric.
- When outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat made of breathable fabric.
- Dress young children and babies very lightly, and don’t bundle them in blankets or heavy clothing.
- If you have an air conditioner with a thermostat, keep it set to the highest setting that is comfortable (somewhere between 22°C/72°F and 26°C/79°F), which will reduce your energy costs and provide you with needed relief.
- Make meals that don't use an oven, especially if you don’t have air conditioning.
- Keep blinds or drapes closed to block out the sun during the day.
- Unplug electronics and turn off lights when not in use.
- If safe, open your windows at night to let cooler air into your home.
- Take a break from the heat by spending a few hours in a cool place. It could be a tree-shaded area, swimming facility or an air-conditioned spot such as a shopping mall, grocery store, place of worship or public library.
- Take cool showers or baths or use cool wet towels to cool down.
- Use a fan to help you stay cool and aim the air flow in your direction.
- Never leave a person or pet inside a parked car or in the direct sunlight.
- Be aware that children are unable to perspire as much as adults and therefore are more prone to heat illness than adults.
- Reschedule or plan outdoor activities during cooler parts of the day.
- If you have to be outdoors, avoid sun exposure. Shade yourself by wearing a wide-brimmed, breathable hat, using an umbrella or seeking out shady areas (tree-shaded areas can be as much as 5°C/9°F cooler than the surrounding area)
- Avoid vigorous exercise in the heat (this includes children as well). If you have a young child or a child with a chronic respiratory condition such as asthma, don’t allow them to take part in sporting events or exercise during very high heat, especially when there’s a heat warning in effect.
- When swimming in a pool or at a beach, be aware that the high humidity and sun rays are still a potential threat. Proper sunscreen protection and frequent rests in the shade are still necessary.
- When in the sun, keep track of how long you or your child has been outside. Learn to recognize the signs of heat illness right away so you or your child can get shelter in order to avoid further heat injury. Also, use common sense and remove yourself or your child from the sun/heat as frequently as you think is necessary. Don’t overdo it.
- Use a sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher and follow the manufacturer's directions. Remember, sunscreen will protect against the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays but not from the heat.
- If you’re in an area where mosquitoes are active, protect yourself with insect repellent and follow the manufacturer's directions.
- Sunscreen and insect repellents can be safely used together. Apply the sunscreen first, then the insect repellent.
Winchester District Memorial Hospital (WDMH) will be completely smoke-free starting January 1, 2018. Individuals can no longer smoke anywhere on hospital property, including in vehicles in our parking lots.
"WDMH is committed to building healthier communities and to fostering a safe, healthy workplace," explains Cholly Boland, CEO.
All Ontario hospitals must comply with the Smoke-Free Ontario Act and the Electronic Cigarettes Act which ban smoking on all hospital properties. The new rules apply to the smoking of tobacco, medical marijuana and e-cigarettes (smoking/vaping). Everyone is required to leave hospital property to smoke. As well, smoking is not permitted within 60 feet of the public school, playground or sports field.
WDMH provides support to patient and staff who wish to quit smoking. Smoking cessation programs are also offered through family physicians and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. Visit MyQuit.ca for more information.
The local public health unit is responsible for enforcing the law and carries out inspections and responds to smoking complaints. Individuals can be fined up to $1,000 for a first offence. The hospital can also be fined, up to $100,000, for a first offence.
If you would like to provide comments or suggestions about hospital services, please contact Cholly Boland, President and CEO, Winchester District Memorial Hospital at 613-774-1049 or by email at email@example.com
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit learned September 29 that it was a victim of a cyber attack.
"Our analysis of the hacking code suggests that the hackers accessed multiple websites maintained by the EOHU looking for credit card information which we do not collect. We immediately shut down our sites, changed the passwords, launched an internal investigation, and advised the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario," the agency says.
"The hackers also sent an email using an EOHU account about a contest to win an iPhone. The hackers did not use our newsletter subscribers list, but rather uploaded and used their own distribution list. We were able to identify the recipients of the contest email and alerted them that it was not legitimate and that clicking on it may have infected their computers with malware."
October 12, the investigation found the hackers were able to access certain databases used to schedule appointments and log calls to the health unit.
"In most cases, the information to which the hackers had access was limited to the caller’s name (first name and sometimes last name), appointment date, and purpose. In some cases, a telephone number but no other contact information was in the databases. Although these databases do not contain client medical records, some may contain notes. Where notes are sensitive in nature, and to the extent that we have contact information, we will reach out by telephone to affected individuals."
The health unit says it is "rebuilding, reconfiguring and incorporating new security measures into our websites to make them more secure against cyber attacks. We will also be consulting with web security specialists about any additional steps we can reasonably take to fortify our electronic information assets against attacks."
For questions, contact the Privacy Officer at 613-933-1375 or 1 800 267-7120 ext. 218 between 8:30 – 4:30 Monday to Friday.
If you believe that your privacy rights have not been handled properly, you can also contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario at:
Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario
2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario M4W 1A8
Telephone: 1 800 387-0073
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit is warning residents that carfentanil, an extremely dangerous opioid, may have been added to some local street drugs.
A urine sample tested positive for the highly toxic variation on fentanyl, an opioid that has been responsible for a dramatic increase in fatal overdoses across the country.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is confirming the summer’s second human case of West Nile virus in the region. Mosquitoes in the area served by the health unit tested positive for the virus in July, and a first human case was confirmed earlier in August.
“West Nile virus remains a concern in our area,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU, adding that “residents should be aware and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families, particularly for the next six to eight weeks while mosquitoes are still active.”
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is confirming the summer's first human case of West Nile virus in the region. Mosquitoes, in the area served by the health unit, tested positive for the virus in July, but human cases had only occurred in other regions of the province.
"This first human case of the summer shows that West Nile virus remains a concern in our area," says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU, adding that "residents should be aware and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families."
Eastern Ontario is not immune to the devastating effects of opioids, stresses the Eastern Ontario Health Unit.
"There is a perception among some people that there has never been an opioid-related death in Cornwall, however, this is not accurate at all," states Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health. "In fact, in the Cornwall area, our ER visit rates related to opioids are higher than the provincial average and are among the highest within the Champlain Local Health Integration Network area."
According to local data, there have been at least 35 opioid-related deaths in the Eastern Counties (including Cornwall) between 2010 and 2015.
Mosquitoes in our area have tested positive for the West Nile virus. However, there have been no human cases reported in our region.
“The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has been actively monitoring mosquitoes for West Nile virus” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health. “This finding shows that West Nile virus remains a concern in our area. Residents should be aware and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families.”