Ontario government commits to action on Justice Campbell's SARS report

Archived Release

Ontario government commits to action on Justice Campbell's SARS report

Ministry of Health

Important steps taken to address the public health deficit TORONTO, April 20 - Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman today released the interim report from Commissioner Archie Campbell on the investigation into the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Ontario and announced a timetable for a comprehensive action plan on public health renewal. The Campbell report recounts how decades of problems and inaction in public health contributed to the SARS crisis. "Our government has taken key steps to address some of the challenges in public health identified by Justice Campbell." Smitherman said. "Most importantly, we appointed Dr. Sheela Basrur as Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health to bring strong, new leadership to public health. We also moved to establish effective and cooperative relationships with the federal and municipal governments - something that the Campbell report identifies as critical to public health renewal in this province." Smitherman said there is more work to be done and he will release a comprehensive action plan for public health in two months, which will look at: - Public health leadership and accountability - Creation of a health protection and promotion agency for Ontario - Legislative changes to increase the independence and strengthen the role of the Chief Medical Officer of Health - Health emergency preparedness - Expanded health human resources "Our government brings a new determination to revitalize public health in this province," Smitherman said. "The work of Justice Campbell and Dr. Walker, together with Dr. Naylor, point the way for a comprehensive public health strategy. Our government will act on the Campbell report to protect and enhance the health of all Ontarians." In addition to the appointment of Dr. Basrur, the Ontario government has brought together experts and emergency professionals from all three levels of government to develop Ontario's Health Pandemic Influenza Plan. We have also implemented emergency response measures including rapid response teams and the Emergency Medical Assistance Team, and issued directives to all health care facilities for use during both outbreak and non-outbreak situations. "I want to thank Justice Archie Campbell for the time, effort and dedication that he has displayed in carrying out this important task," Smitherman said. "This interim report explores events during the SARS outbreak last year and will be invaluable as we move forward with positive change to our public health system." For a copy of the Campbell report, visit our web site at www.health.gov.on.ca. The minister will be available to comment on the report in the Queen's Park media studio at 4 p.m. today. This news release is available on our website at: http://www.health.gov.on.ca Version fran├žaise disponible Backgrounder ------------------------------------------------------------------------- PUBLIC HEALTH RENEWAL IN ONTARIO The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Ontario in the spring of 2003 caused great pain and suffering in the lives of many people in this province. This experience caused considerable strain on all Ontario citizens, the government, and our health care providers. The outbreak ultimately came to an end with the help of the selfless dedication of health care professionals who rose to the challenge and fought to stop the spread of SARS. The reports by Justice Campbell, Dr. Walker and Dr. Naylor help create the roadmap for revitalizing public health in the future. Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman will be receiving Dr. Walker's final report tomorrow. Under the leadership of Ontario's new Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sheela Basrur, a thorough review of the delivery of public health is underway. Below are key actions to improve emergency preparedness since the SARS outbreak: LEADERSHIP - the appointment of Dr. Sheela Basrur as Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health and Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Health. PLANNING AND PREPAREDNESS - A central Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Emergency Management Unit (EMU) has been created to increase the level of emergency preparedness. - A provincial public health Epi-Centre has been established with a defined role of: - Collecting data on cases, quarantine, and risk-exposure sites; - Managing a SARS database; and - Producing daily epidemiological reports. - The ministry is developing a Health Pandemic Influenza Plan for Ontario, and is in the process of receiving valuable feedback from health care partners to further refine the plan. - Improved emergency department resources to better treat and protect patients with respiratory infections: - There are now 705 negative pressure beds and 89 negative pressure areas within emergency departments across the province. Negative pressure rooms are identified by region, site and type on the CritiCall database. - The Provincial Transfer Authorization Centre (PTAC) has been formalized as a provincial patient tracking system to facilitate surveillance of patients transferred between facilities or discharged home. - Implementation of Rapid ResponseTeams and public health call centre. - Stockpile of personal protective equipment and other clinical supplies for health care workers are secured for distribution. - Emergency Medical Assistance Team (EMAT) - a mobile acute-care field unit consisting of 20 negative-pressure tents staffed by a team of healthcare professionals - is on standby to travel, set-up and respond to emergencies in any Ontario location within 24 hours. - Increased cooperation with the federal government for more streamlined quarantine surveillance and management. - Enhanced communication channels among provincial emergency responders and federal counterparts. - The integrated Public Health Information System (iPHIS) project, which we are in the process of implementing in collaboration with Health Canada for communicable disease reporting and management. Implementation of iPHIS is expected in the fall of 2004. - A registry of volunteer nurses and registered respiratory therapists who can assist in emergencies has been formalized. A protocol for emergency out-of-province recruitment and licensure is now in place. - All health care facilities have standards and guidelines for use during both respiratory outbreaks and non-outbreak situations.For further information: Members of the media: Eva Lannon, Minister's Office, (416) 327-4320; Tanya Cholakov, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, (416) 314-6197; Members of the general public: (416) 327-4327, or (800) 268-1154