Open Letter from the Couchiching Ontario Health Team (OHT)
The Couchiching Ontario Health Team (OHT) is a collaboration of health care providers, agencies, services, local government officials, patients and caregivers who are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the citizens of Orillia, Oro Medonte, Rama, Ramara and Severn. Building on the successful partnership over a number of years, Couchiching has been selected as one of the 24 OHTs approved to proceed with the integration of care within the new Provincial structure of Ontario Health.
In late 2019, the Couchiching OHT began work on its first year goal of integrating care for frail seniors, which was our year one target population. We started looking at ways to collaborate with community care providers in innovative ways and enhance our use of technology to support virtual care.
With the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of the Couchiching OHT did not pause, it accelerated. Our target population of frail seniors, particularly those in Long-Term Care facilities and Retirement Homes were disproportionately the ones who suffered most from COVID-19. Innovative ideas such as Virtual Care became increasingly important. This community of providers has responded admirably to the challenge to date and has no intention on slowing down any time soon.
It appears as though the first wave of COVID-19 is passing and we have a new opportunity as a community to take proactive steps to positively impact future waves of COVID-19. There are three key public health measures that are proven strategies against COVID-19:
- Physical Distancing
- Frequent hand hygiene (hand washing or hand sanitizer)
We recognize that physical distancing and hand hygiene are well understood as highly effective strategies to stop COVID-19 spread. Masks are an additional strategy to further protect our community. When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets. Many jurisdictions who have adopted a comprehensive mask use policy have seen an improved “flattening of the curve”. There may be those who cannot wear a mask such as the very young or those with medical conditions affecting breathing, but having greater than 80% of the general population wear a mask will benefit everyone.
So let’s start a movement by asking our community to wear a mask if you are able, every time you are inside public spaces, outside in crowds or on public transit. We must do this for ourselves, our family and for each other. Let us unite and work towards making sure our community has access to a cloth mask or face covering and uses it. This will help our healthcare system cope during the next pandemic wave and businesses stay open.
We all have a responsibility to support the health and wellbeing of our community. Together, we can do this.
Stay Safe Everyone
On behalf of the Couchiching Ontario Health Team,
Lynne Davies Carmine Stumpo
Chief Executive Officer, President & CEO,
Couchiching Family Health Team Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital