Midhurst/April 9, 2020 – The County of Simcoe declared an emergency on March 18, initiating a number of measures and protocols to help the region respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the critical measures being implemented is the County's Business Continuity of Operations Plan, or Surge Plan, which enables the County to address labour shortages in essential service areas through redeployment of County staff.
The County of Simcoe provides a wide range of essential and critical services, including the operation of four large long-term care and seniors services facilities, paramedic services, social and community services (Ontario Works, housing, children's services and homelessness prevention), waste management, and other critical supports such as transit, roads, communications/customer service, business/partner support, information technology/network services, and human resources. Conversely, a number of County services and programs have been closed to the public or have a reduced workload due to the Provincial and County declarations of emergency, nature of work and other public health guidelines, including the museum, library, and some functions within social and community services, environmental services and tourism, among other areas.
Staff who are able to perform their duties from home, are currently working virtually full-time or on a rotation, which allows for proper physical distancing and aligns with gathering protocols. To-date, the County has not made any direct staff layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of our 1,900 employees, approximately 85 to 90 per cent are directly employed in essential services departments, and the remaining employees are indirectly supporting the provision of these important services or are being considered for redeployment as part of surge planning.
Currently, a number of staff have been redeployed, or are in the process of being redeployed, to essential service roles through a voluntary process. These staff are assisting continuity of operations to support our essential services, or are directly assisting with new COVID-19 staff protocols in our four long-term care homes. As the pandemic continues, the expectation is that the needs for redeployment of staff will become a necessity and the strategy to address these needs is fluid, as per the County's surge plan. To-date, a small portion of staff members have decided to take an unpaid leave of absence instead of being redeployed.
Staff being redeployed are receiving initial training and where necessary are being provided full PPE and instructed on public health guidelines and regulations. Currently, no County long-term care home has had a confirmed COVID-19 case, and extensive measures are in place to help ensure the safety of all staff working in these facilities and the residents they serve. Since mid-March the County's homes have been closed to public/family visitation and extensive screening measures for staff and residents are in place. Physical distancing protocols are in effect and any items coming into the facility, such as paper, are being isolated for 72 hours before being distributed. As with any long-term care home, strict hygiene and sanitization measures are in place, and have been enhanced further to protect everyone in the facility. Staff being redeployed are quickly learning why these facilities and their staff make these amazing places to work.
“Labour shortages will likely become an issue during this developing situation, and we are doing everything we can to not only keep our tremendous staff safe, but maintain our service levels in these essential areas through staff redeployment," said Mark Aitken, Chief Administrative Officer. “The feedback we've been receiving from staff supporting these critical areas of need, including those redeployed at our long-term care homes, has been very positive. We cannot rule out layoffs in the future for non-essential staff; however, we know that we will continue to face labour shortages in areas of need, and we will do everything we can to adapt and address these needs during these unprecedented times. We are dedicated to all our staff, our residents, and our communities and we thank everyone for doing their part to help us get through this difficult time and work towards a strong recovery. Please stay at home to help our healthcare workers to continue to help you and your loved ones."
The County and its partners are reminding residents that even though it is the Easter long weekend, with various traditions of getting together for meals and group activities, that now more than ever, isolation, physical distancing and adherence to group gathering guidelines are critical steps in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and protecting your loved ones. Please do your part to help influence positive outcomes.
County of Simcoe is composed of sixteen member municipalities and provides crucial public services to County residents in addition to providing paramedic and social services to the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia. Visit our website at simcoe.ca.
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Public Relations Consultant
County of Simcoe, Service Simcoe Branch
Manager, Public Relations
County of Simcoe, Service Simcoe Branch