We are in the midst of exceptional, once-in-a-lifetime circumstances.
It was on March 18 last year Grey Bruce saw the initial cases of COVID-19. Those first few cases were all travel-related. Ten days in, the tenth case for the region became the first attributed to community transmission.
Infectious diseases are the origins of public health. A pandemic is something public health is trained and ready to respond.
The Grey Bruce Health Unit invoked its emergency response. A command structure, similar to the military, was set up to oversee and implement. Many everyday functions of public health were put on hold with people and resources were re-deployed. Staff, managers and the Medical Officer of Health focussed on the new threat.
Everyone in Public Health is continually adapting to the new realities and challenges. COVID-19 programs are running seven-days-a-week with extended hours. Dental educators are now experts in contact tracing. IT is developing a mass immunization registration system. Public Health Nurses are managing exceptional caseloads. Inspectors are working with partners to ensure compliance. The list goes on.
The communications team are keeping everyone informed at every stage. Based on a foundation of transparency, the open lines of two-way communication and a strong social and mainstream media presence are fundamental to a robust level of public engagement.
Managers have been taking on new roles to ensure staff have the resources they need for success. They are leading contact and case management teams, vaccine teams, rolling out immunization clinics, and connecting and working with key partners in virtually every sector. Manager portfolios rotate regularly to ensure back-up is always available.
Dr. Arra has worked every day at the helm since the first cases were identified. Over the past year, he has put in the long, hard hours, almost doubling his regular hours, working around the clock at certain critical times. At one point, he opted to forgo sedative for a surgical procedure to allow him to return to work immediately. He has taken the lead in the emergency, anticipating, planning and implementing our over-all response.
Dr. Arra is a physician specialist trained in population health; this is his area of expertise. It is clear that we are all benefitting from his proficiency. His leadership, in mobilizing the community and partners, public and private, to volunteer and invest resources in a collaborative and unified response, places Grey Bruce in the enviable position of consistently having one of the lowest COVID-19 case and deaths counts in the province. What price can you put on lives saved?
Dr. Arra has proven to be a visionary. His concept of the ‘hockey hub’ mass immunization centre is an entirely different way of approaching the challenges of immunizing large numbers of people. His revolutionary concept is drawing attention and proving itself in use across Canada and beyond.
Dr. Arra spent nights away from his family working with system partners, community leaders, and concerned citizens’ alike, using their input in the emergency response plan. Dr. Arra has the confidence and the respect of the people of Grey Bruce earning the title Grey Bruce ‘Top Doctor’. In the current circumstances, many look upon him as their doctor.
Chair, Board of Health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit