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PRESS RELEASE: Encouragement is not enough, Ottawa Public Health needs to take real action, says Horizon Ottawa
OTTAWA - Horizon Ottawa is demanding action from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) and Chief Medical Officer Vera Etches to curb the dual crisis of rising COVID cases, especially in children, and hospitals overburdened with long wait times and a lack of sufficient resources.
Earlier this week it was reported that there has been a surge in COVID cases, especially in younger patients, since the beginning of the Fall season. According to the report, children’s hospitals are over 100 percent capacity and wait times can be up to 24 hours. In response, CHEO announced, in an unprecedented move, that they had to open a second pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in order to handle the situation.
Additionally, an Ontario health report leaked by an Ontario Liberal MPP revealed that if no action is taken soon, our healthcare system will collapse. The report suggests that 90% of patients waited 12 hours in an emergency room and, once they were admitted, 90% of them waited 45 hours to complete their visit. The worst record, the report says, since 2008.
“This is a crisis unlike we have ever seen before and our public health unit is again missing in action when it comes to reinstating much needed health measures,” said Sam Hersh, Board member of Horizon Ottawa. “It should not take a mammoth effort to convince OPH to take action.”
In response to the rise in cases and the pleading of hospital staff for patients and visitors to wear masks, OPH issued a notice that they “strongly recommend wearing a well-fitted mask in any indoor and/or crowded public setting.” The notice also went on to say that they would support businesses that implemented mask mandates but stopped short at indicating if they would implement their own, despite having the ability to do so under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act.
In July of this year, Horizon Ottawa alongside the Disability Justice Network of Ontario called on OPH and Dr. Etches to re-implement a host of COVID protocols as cases were first rising, such as: re-implementing masking requirements, a return to daily updated data on COVID transmission and universal, free access to quality N95 masks among other things. Those requests, like others made previously, were ignored.
“Our organization and others across this city have been calling on OPH and Dr. Vera Etches to use their powers to reinstate life-saving COVID protocols like a mask mandate for months. Our calls have been consistently ignored and the community has suffered as a result,” said Hersh. “As the data has quite clearly shown, encouragement is not enough, we need real leadership not empty gestures and recommendations.”
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