Ontario Government Commits to Action Plan on Public Health

Archived Release

Ontario Government Commits to Action Plan on Public Health

Ministry of Health

Smitherman Receives SARS Report From Expert Panel Led By Dr. David Walker TORONTO, April 21 - Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman today received and committed to act on the final report from Dr. David Walker and the Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control. This report makes recommendations for improving Ontario's public health system based on lessons from last year's SARS outbreak. "Our government will bring a new mandate, new leadership and new resources to public health," Smitherman said. "The final Walker report together with the Campbell interim report, the Naylor report and the upcoming report from Dr. Ross Baker on patient safety will give us a strong platform to drive forward a comprehensive public health strategy for Ontario." The final report, which builds on the 53 recommendations from the interim report of the Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control, was presented to Smitherman earlier today. "Our government has taken key actions to address challenges in public health identified in the Expert Panel's interim report," said Smitherman. "Within months of being elected, we appointed Dr. Sheela Basrur as Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health to bring strong, focussed leadership to public health in Ontario. We've established open and cooperative relationships with federal and municipal governments." "We have much more to do and we are getting on with the job of rebuilding public health," said Smitherman. Smitherman stated yesterday that 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 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 thank Dr. Walker and the members of the Expert Panel for their hard work, dedication and expertise that went into producing this seminal report," said Smitherman. For a copy of the Walker report, visit our website at www.health.gov.on.ca 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 road map for revitalizing public health in the future. 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 - 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 Response Teams 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