Public Health Inspectors at the Helm of the COVID-19 Response

This week, we are shining a light on the role of our local Public Health Inspectors, or “PHI’s” as we affectionately refer to them as around here. Our PHI’s have been at the helm of the COVID-19 response across Chatham-Kent since the emergency was declared in our community.

Who better to provide us with some insight on the role of a CK Public Health Inspector than Cara Robinson, the Manager of the Environmental Health team with 10 years as a Certified Public Health Inspector under her belt?

“Outbreak response and management is what we’re trained to do. Responding to something of this magnitude is significant, but Public Health Inspectors are versatile, we’re used to changing gears.” – Cara Robinson, Manager, Environmental Health

Kurt, Public Health Inspector

Some of those added PHI responsibilities vital to the local response, are:

  • Staffing the COVID-19 intake phone line and email 8:30-4:30, 7 days per week, to assist with public inquiries
  • Investigating and responding to certain types of complaints, including:
    • Complaints regarding self isolation
    • Complaints regarding social distancing
    • Complaints regarding business control measures and practices
  • Providing ongoing support to shared living facilities
  • Assisting with supply and swab transport
  • Providing support and guidance to various business sectors regarding implementation of control measures as they plan to resume or continue operations safely

In addition, our PHI’s have provided ongoing support to CK long-term care and retirement homes over the last few months. This has included:

  • Coordinating symptomatic and asymptomatic swabbing of staff and residents
  • Coordinating transfer of information from the Ministry and Ontario Health to the homes
  • Responding to questions relating to infection control, PPE, and other controls routinely
  • Managing and communicating testing results as they come in
“I’m particularly proud of the support we’re providing to long-term care homes and other shared living spaces where we’re working to protect society’s most vulnerable people. We have a long-standing rapport with these settings, but it’s only been strengthened during this response.” – Cara Robinson, Manager, Environmental Health

Jennifer, Public Health Inspector

With so much to do in terms of COVID-19 response, it is hard to imagine that there would be much time, or energy, left for anything else. For other workers, this may be the case, but PHI’s aren’t regular workers – they’re Public Health Heroes. On top of this already impressive list of duties, it is important to remember that PHI’s are performing this work IN ADDITION to their regular priority work, including:

  • Animal bite investigations
  • Outbreak investigations
  • Investigations of reportable disease reports
  • Seasonal housing inspections
  • Other demand inspections (ie. opening food premises)
  • Complaint inspections/investigations
  • Food recalls
  • Adverse drinking water response
  • Public education on ticks and Lyme disease
“The team has a lot of “Priority A” tasks that have to continue during the pandemic. Their regular work hasn’t stopped, but they are taking on the additional work of handling the response, and they’re doing a great job at it.” – Cara Robinson, Manager, Environmental Health