Public health unit adjusting as conditions constantly change

PEMBROKE – It is true to say that most of our lives have been disrupted by the pandemic. That’s certainly been true of those that work at the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU).

Having been responsible for a host of public health services such as food inspections, promoting good health, from programs on breast-feeding to smoking cessation and mental health in schools, the staff have been at the forefront of dealing with the pandemic, providing information to the public from the scientific community and implementing provincial government policy.

Three members of the unit share their experiences of working through the pandemic over the last couple of months.

Manager of Healthy Environments David Tantalo said that many routine inspections have stopped and food handling courses delayed as staff focus on responding to the pandemic.

As the Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Cushman said, the health unit has been transformed to a pandemic response organization. Staff have fielded 5,000 pandemic related phone calls from residents and community partners.

For Tantalo, the challenge has been re-training staff for new duties and responsibilities and preparing for surge outbreaks.

Tantalo has been encouraged by the staff at the unit.

“Staff are working extremely diligently and have picked up the pace without hesitation… Staff want to make a difference and want to help others so that the spread of COVID-19 is stopped as much as possible,” Tantalo said.

When asked what he had learned from the pandemic, Tantalo said “Communication between teams internally is integral for effective and efficient public health work. The public looks to the health unit to be a champion in public health and provide for appropriate and timely information. We want to be there to assist them in understanding the disease and provide them with ways to keep safe in the community.”

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