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Unanimous support calls for regular funding for infection prevention funding for Sudbury Health Unit

Sudbury's Board of Health believes that infection control is too important to be funded for just one year
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Public Health Sudbury, Public Health Sudbury and Districts, Sudbury health unit, Sudbury & District Health Unit, Sudbury and District Public Health Unit

The Sudbury Board of Health has unanimously approved a motion asking Queen's Park to devote regular annual funding to the health unit for Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) in Sudbury and the rest of the North.

This follows a presentation made Thursday by Holly Browne, manager of the Health Protection Division at Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD).

She reported that the Ontario government, realizing that IPAC procedures were not being adhered to across the province back in 2020, launched a funding initiative that took effect last September. The province decided to set up a hub system involving hospitals and health units that would branch out across local communities to stop the spread of infections. 

The province announced $2.8 billion dedicated to reducing the chances of future infections from influenza, from COVID-19, from overcrowding in long-term care homes and from the pressures of human resources shortages in health care settings.  

In the PHSD jurisdiction, that meant one-time funding of $840,000 was allocated. PHSD believes that IPAC is too important a function to be funded one a one-time basis. 

"Public Health Ontario defines Infection Prevention and Control, or IPAC, as evidence based practices and procedures that when applied consistently in health care settings can prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of micro-organisms to health care providers, clients, patients and visitors," said Browne.

She said it was recognized that public health agencies already have the expertise in place for such measures. 

"The IPAC hub is an enhancement of the work we were already doing," Browne continued. 

She explained that throughout most of Ontario the IPAC hub is operated and funded mainly through local hospitals with health units being partners. In Northern Ontario, the Ministry of Health has put that weight onto public health units, including PHSD.

Browne said this has required education, training and partnership with other health agencies, with long-term care homes, retirement homes, assisted living situations and others to ensure that the message of infection prevention was being heard.

Browne said a threefold strategy was developed for the IPAC hubs.

"We want to decrease the illnesses within the facilities. We want to increase the quality of life. And we want to improve the IPAC preparedness of the congregate care setting," she said.

"Reaching these goals will not happen in the short term. Although we are well on our way to visiting all our congregate settings, and providing guidance and knowledge, we realize we will not be able to affect sustainable change in the year we are currently funded for," said Browne. 

She added that the local IPAC team at PHSD consists of four team members and one manager; not enough to provide the education, guidance and support to an area that includes Greater Sudbury, Manitoulin Island and a wider rural area stretching north all the way to Chapleau.

Browne said when the funding was secured earlier this year, the team of four "hit the ground running" responding to requests. To date, the team has visited 92 congregate care facilities and has responded to more than 800 phone calls and emails for IPAC information. 

Browne's presentation to the board of health resulted in a motion calling on Queen's Park to provide IPAC funding to PHSD and other Northern Ontario health units on a sustaining annual basis.

The motion was approved unanimously. 


About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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