EDITORIAL: Coming to terms with masking is made easier when considering the kids

It was likely equal doses of unbridled optimism and naivety on your humble scribe’s part when, in mid-June, he pitched most of his cloth masks into the trash heap with relish. Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, called a halt to most of the provincial mask mandates June 11 and a summer suddenly unburdened by the oral obstacle lie in wait. Surely, this had to be the end of the COVID-19 pandemic as we knew it? Right? That’s what we were all told.

While some refused to comply with public health mandates out of a “better” set of factoids based on their own internet research or a host of other factors, wasn’t a robust vaccination program and a two year time line supposed to rid the planet-or at least Canada- of the scourage of the coronavirus?

On Monday, Quinte Health President Stacey Daub and Chief of Staff Dr. Colin MacPherson confirmed the horror stories playing out and Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario are not isolated to large cities and that our local hospital compliment is being battered by a massive increase of sick children suffering from not only COVID infections but significant rates of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

“This fall has seen a significant increase in Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in children, creating substantially higher pediatric related emergency department (ED) visits and hospital admissions at both community and specialty children’s hospitals.”

Locally, QHC is operating at 135 per cent of its funded adult medicine capacity and 135 per cent of its pediatric in‐patient medicine capacity, translating into immense pressures at each community hospital including Prince Edward County Memorial. Pediatric visits to the ED in October were by 20 per cent over 2021 and a 40 per cent increase in the number of children between 4 and 10 years of age.

These extreme pressures have resulted in extended emergency department wait times, delays in transfers between hospitals and from the emergency departments to an in‐patient bed according to QHC. The horror scenes in Toronto of patients young and old waiting 24 to 48 hours to be admitted to hospital may not be the mirrored reality locally but QHC rang its largest alarm bell on Monday indicating its under extreme duress.

And that outlook isn’t about to change as we enter flu season. Of course a sudden increase of human health resource funding could help. Premier Doug Ford’s extension of Ontario’s gas tax pause cost the treasury $1.2 billion…or about 11,000 registered nurses if you do your math a different way.

With this spring’s mandate handed to him by a historically low number of voters participating in the Ontario General Election, it’s doubtful Ford will reverse course and start spending more money on healthcare. So excuse this scrivener if we heave a sigh, offer a disdained look at a mask we dug out of a coat from last winter and start booking flu shots and COVID boosters.

We despise masks, COVID, the threat of seasonal sickness and the stubbornness of seasonal sickness.

But not nearly as much as beleaguered, exhausted nurses and healthcare professionals and seeing sick children and their parents languishing in local hospitals.

For those that haven’t strapped the cotton camouflage back on yet, do it. Not because you want to but because your fellow Ontarians- sick children, nurses, doctors and teachers need to you. And that’s more than reason enough.

-Jason Parks

PICTURING OUR COMMUNITY

The PEC Memorial Hospital Auxiliary held their Volunteer Appreciation event at The View Restaurant at Picton Golf and Country Club on Sunday. This annual event honours all those volunteers who help the PECMH Auxiliary promote healthcare in our area through service and fundraising. This year 70 volunteers attending the event. This year, there were some significant milestones by our volunteers. Pictured at right are Pam Strachan and Rebecca MacKellar, who have dedicated 12,000 and 16,000 volunteer hours respectively: and (Left) Catherine Dunlop, who has been a volunteer member of the Auxiliary for the past 35 years (pictured with Auxiliary president Cathy Starkey on left). Also dedicating an amazing 35 years with the Auxiliary are Carol Ireland, Brenda Minaker and Sheila Wedekamm (not pictured). “Thank you to all our volunteer members! We couldn’t do it without you.” (Submitted Photos)