By Graham Whittaker
The Ontario government announced that it plans to implement an enhanced public health structure to effectively combat COVID-19.
While the threat to Ontario remains low, with 18 confirmed cases in the province, this proactive update will broaden the existing framework to provide a fast and effective response to suspected cases.
Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, announced these changes Monday following the confirmation of three new cases on Monday.
“Our local public health units, hospitals, emergency health services, nurses and primary care providers, among others, have been critical in managing the early phases of this new coronavirus,” said Elliott. “This new structure will tap into an even broader network of clinical expertise, experience and capacity across the health sector to ensure extensive plans are in place to quickly and effectively respond to any and every possible scenario.”
The changes to the structure is as follows:
- A new Command Table will be the single point of oversight providing executive leadership and strategic direction to guide Ontario’s response to COVID-19. The Command Table reports to the Minister of Health. The table will be chaired by the Deputy Minister of Health, Helen Angus, and include Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Heath; Matthew Anderson, Ontario Health’s President and Chief Executive Officer; with representation from Public Health Ontario, the Ministry of Long-Term Care and Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
- Five regional planning and implementation tables, led by Ontario Health with support from local public health units, will be responsible for reviewing regional plans to proactively ensure local readiness and implementing provincial strategies in areas such as assessment, testing and care, supplies and equipment, surveillance and communications.
- The Ministry’s Emergency Operations Centre, also known as MEOC, will continue to provide situational awareness and perform an overall coordination function among the components of the response structure.
- A Scientific Table, led by Public Health Ontario, will support the provincial and regional components of the response structure with the provision of evidence, and scientific and technical advice to inform planning and response.
- An Ethics Table, led by the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, will assist in providing ethical guidance and representation at both provincial and regional tables to support decision-making throughout the response.
- Sector or Issues Specific Tables, which would have a specific focus like supporting the coordination of repatriated Canadians or local case and contact management as well as sector-specific coordination such as paramedic services, First Nations health partners and others as needed.
- A Collaboration Table with members from key health sector organizations which will provide advice to the Command Table.
“Although the risk to Ontarians remains low, it is important that we take decisive steps to prepare for any scenario as this is a quickly evolving situation globally,” said Elliott. “As we enter this next phase of preparedness, every Ontarian should have full confidence that these efforts by our dedicated public health professionals and health care leaders will continue to keep them safe.”
With 18 cases in Ontario this brings the number of cases up to 27 in Canada.
The three latest cases announced today involve patients from Toronto.
Health officials say these cases are travel-related and the patients are in self-quarantine.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams says there is no sign COVID-19 is spreading locally.