Board of Health Meeting Summary – March

Written by Comms Team, March 14, 2023

Opioid-Related Harms Update

Dr. Piggott noted continued work and strategic plan prioritization of the drug poisoning crisis response. In particular Dr. Piggott emphasized the need for a continued 4-Pillar approach in the response and highlighted the community proposal advanced by FourCAST and CMHA for a community addictions detox and treatment facility, for which PPH wrote a letter of support. Carolyn Doris, Manager of Family and Community Health, shared a drug poisoning update based on data featured on Peterborough Public Health’s Opioid Harms Data Portal. According to Doris, January had the highest number of deaths since tracking began in 2011. Another 5 suspected deaths occurred in February. Doris noted that cause of death is confirmed by the Coroner’s Office through the completion of an investigation. As these investigations are typically delayed by several months, final mortality numbers are subject to change and may rise as investigations are closed. Over the last 12 months, Doris shared there have been, on average, 6 deaths every month. This demonstrates the continued need for coordinated efforts via the Peterborough Drug Strategy and other community partners to ensure a united response to the drug poisoning crisis. Despite a rise in deaths in the first 2 months of 2023, Doris notes that Emergency Department visits have remained at similar levels to January 2023, and Paramedic Calls-for-Service increased slightly compared to the previous month.

COVID-19 and Respiratory Viruses Update

Donna Churipuy, Director of Health Protection, reviewed current data from the COVID-19 and Respiratory Virus Index. Current data shows that the region remains at a moderate risk level, despite increasing case rates and hospitalizations. An increase in positive Rapid Antigen Tests has been observed, along with a declining waste water signal. Conversely, respiratory virus signals have increased. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has released a statement advising an additional booster dose in Spring 2023 for key populations. Peterborough Public Health is waiting on provincial guidance to determine implementation needs for a Spring campaign. In the interim, Peterborough Public Health continues to advise residents to take precautionary measures and notes that layering protections remains important at this stage of the pandemic.

Informational Review of Mandatory Standards and Program Delivery: Health Protection Division

Donna Churipuy, Director of Health Protection, delivered the first of 3 presentations to the Board of Health outlining the mandatory programs and services that local public health units are required to deliver under the Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS). Requirements specific to the Health Protection Division, which includes the Environmental Health, Clinical Services, and Infectious and Communicable Diseases programs, were reviewed. Churipuy provided a detailed overview of the context, program requirements, scope and objectives, and staffing structure for each program. In general, Peterborough Public Health is managing a significant workload with limited staffing resources compared to other public health units. For example, in 2018, the Infectious Disease team responded to 418 Diseases of Public Health significance with a team of 9 full-time staff. Similarly, 13 staff on the Clinical Services team responded to 789 reports of Sexually-transmitted and Blood-Born Infections (STBBIs) in 2018 and provided immunization services at 31 schools. In 2019, the Clinical Services team also administered 2574 doses of vaccine and completed 2314 Public Health Nurse and physician assessments through the Sexual Health Clinic. Finally, the Environmental Health team executed health hazard inspections, investigations, and enforcement activities under the OPHS with a team of 20 regular, part-time, and temporary staff. In addition to regular inspections of 351 Small Drinking Water Systems and over 1000 food premises, the Environmental Health team responded to 488 animal bites and completed 98 health hazard inspections and re-inspections in 2019. Churipuy noted that work within the Health Protection Division has fallen behind due to the pandemic, but planning is underway to catch up on critical work despite long-standing capacity issues.