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Meeting of the Board of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit

Held on September 10, 2020, Timmins Office, Online via Microsoft Teams (MS Teams)


  • Drago Stefanic, Vice-Chair, Township of Hornepayne
  • Cleo Charlebois, Township of Black River-Matheson
  • Denis Clement, Town of Cochrane, Town of Moosonee
  • Marc Dupuis, Township of Mattice Val-Cote, Opasatika and Val-Rita-Harty
  • Marc Ringuette, Town of Hearst
  • Pat Britton, Town of Iroquois Falls
  • Sebastien Lessard, Town of Kapuskasing,Townships of Moonbeam, Fauquier and Stickland
  • George Pirie, City of Timmins
  • Kristin Murray, City of Timmins
  • Mickey Auger, City of Timmins


  • Lianne Catton, Medical Officer of Health (MOH)/Chief Executive Officer (CEO)


  • Carla Pecjak, Executive Assistant to the MOH/CEO, Secretary to the Board of Health

Attending by Invitation:

  • Mary-Lou Pollon, Manager Corporate Services

1. Call to Order

Sue Perras, Board of Health Chair, called the Board of Health meeting to order at 5:00 p.m.

2. Approval of Agenda

The agenda for the September 10, 2020 Board of Health meeting was reviewed. The following motion was read:

MOVED BY: Cleo Charlebois
SECONDED BY: Marc Ringuette

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-50

Be It Resolved, that the Board of Health Agenda, dated September 10, 2020, be approved.


3. Conflict of Interest Declaration

There were no conflicts of interest declared.

4.  Approval of Previous Minutes

The minutes from the Board of Health Meeting held on June 25, 2020, were reviewed and the following motion was read:

MOVED BY: Mickey Auger
SECONDED BY: Kristin Murray

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-51

Be It Resolved, that the minutes from the Board of Health meeting held on June 25, 2020, be approved as   presented.


5. Business Arising from Minutes

There was nothing under Business Arising.

6. Report of the Medical Officer of Health

Porcupine Health Unit COVID Response 


Daily updates continue to be shared on the PHU website, social media, and via email with BOH, municipalities, Indigenous community leadership and partners, community social service, health, and education partners. These updates are shared in both French and English. These daily updates include pertinent local COVID updates, as well as information on local resources and services, such as assessment centres, latest guidance documents, evidence and recommendations from the Province, Ministry of Health, and other Ministries as appropriate.

Media teleconference updates are booked to provide information regarding significant events and updates, for instance the mask mandate for indoor public spaces, and the reopening of schools. 

Another key area of communication with the opening of schools, and recognition of trends elsewhere in the Province, is the need to focus on screening for symptoms, staying home if any, to isolate and call for testing. Radio advertisements in French and English are being arranged this month to expand reach of this important message to as many community members as possible.

Case Bulletin Updates

Case bulletin reports require continued attention to privacy and confidentiality, especially with schools opening and potential increase in cases in children and youth. There is much discussion to ensure personal health information is protected and continued calls for kindness and respect as stigma and judgement continue to be experienced by cases. The opening of schools and potential difference in reporting requirements is leading to increased concerns around the potential identification of cases, especially in smaller communities. The Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education continue to review these concerns. At this time, we are changing reporting of individual cases to no longer include gender, and the age ranges have been broadened. This information will still be collected and analyzed in the PHU’s weekly epidemiology reports. School cases will not be identified on an individual level; however, schools will be identified if an outbreak is declared.

Contact Tracing

Contacts of cases are all identified through the case investigation and follow up and they are all called within the targeted timeframe goals from the Ministry to conduct a risk assessment with them and provide further guidance. The PHU continues to meet goals for reaching cases and contacts and is training more staff and planning for increased capacity to respond to a second wave. The team then follows cases and contacts regularly as per the guidance and assesses needs for supports to remain in isolation and follow public health guidance. Risks of exposure for the general public or specific settings are assessed and shared more broadly as appropriate. Again, emphasis remains on the proven measures to reduce the risk and the need for all community members to assume exposure is possible and probable every day, regardless of case announcements.


Ministry funding for school PHN positions have been filled with current complement of public health nurses and includes bilingual nurses and a francophone school manager. Currently working to backfill those positions. School team also includes health promoters – two summer students were hired, one temporary and one full-time positions; as well as a public health inspector, and a registered dietitian. There will be a school PHN assigned to support each school, and with so many schools and such a large region, each nurse will be the main connection for several schools. In smaller branch offices, the community PHN will be the main contact to support local schools. The role of these nurses will be supporting the schools with education, communications, and to provide guidance on infection prevention and control and the implementation of public health measures.

Dr. Catton has been hosting weekly calls with Directors of Education (DOE) from all boards of education in the region since the beginning of August, and it has been extremely well received as an opportunity to answer questions, share the latest guidance and support COVID-safe reopening of schools. The group has agreed to continue this important engagement into the Fall.

Collaboration Across the North

The PHU school team has been working closely with the school team from Timiskaming Health Unit (THU) as several large school boards are shared. This collaboration demonstrates the opportunities in efficiencies and capacities when working together, and the natural synergies between the health units. THU leadership also actively participates in the weekly calls with the DOE. There are many resources, communications, and protocols under development for the ongoing support to schools, school staff, parents, and students.

The Northern Medical Officers of Health, and Directors of Education from the North also collaborated for a shared media release and statement on the safe reopening of schools, with the top 10 COVID-19 basic rules for safe schools. This is an important demonstration of the ongoing shared commitment between public health and education leadership across the North to protecting our schools and communities.


PHU continues to work with Ontario Health (OH), who is responsible for the testing, and assessment centre (AC) leads across the region, to discuss testing capacity, planning for increased demand related to back to schools and fall flu season. There will be continued engagement to share and review priorities, including the need to have testing availability for all those with symptoms, as well as those potentially exposed, identified in case investigation – across the region. This planning with OH and AC includes transportation to the lab in Timmins in a timely manner as transportation to the lab also impacts turnaround times. The PHU will also continue to facilitate the timely testing of close contacts and those identified in case investigation or as part of an outbreak investigation, and will work with AC, OH and the lab to coordinate this.

There are many other settings and community partners that public health continues to support for guidance on implementation of the public health measures, communications, and resources, and to provide infection prevention and control (IPAC) guidance and expertise. This includes post-secondary institutions, daycares and childcare centres, personal service settings, food premise operators, restaurants, workplaces, businesses, as well as sports and recreational facilities and organizations and event planners. The workplace committee has not only provided a couple virtual sessions supporting the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, but produces resources to support workplaces and businesses across the region, sends weekly emails, and regularly updates a website page with important updates and resources to support the great work done by businesses and workplaces across the PHU to reduce the risk of COVID.

Ongoing Support and Leadership for the COVID-19 Response

Meetings to answer questions, provide ongoing updates, recommendations, and latest evidence-based guidance, as well as IPAC expertise and guidance.

Meetings hosted by the PHU: weekly teleconferences for acute and primary care partners across the region; weekly teleconferences for long term care homes (LTCH) and retirement homes (RH). Have also hosted teleconferences for industries such as mining and lumber; childcare and day care centres; and others.

Meetings attended: Emergency control group meetings for municipalities across the region, Taykwa Tagamou First Nation, Ontario Health North and assessment centre teleconferences, LTCH/RH outbreak prevention and management meetings.

Ongoing COVID line phone support for the general public, and community partners remains open, Monday to Friday during business hours, and weekends 11-3.

The Northern Medical Officers of Health continue to meet weekly to review current local context and response across the north. Collaboration and sharing of resources and approaches as well as work to enhance consistency remains a focus of the discussions. Dr Catton remains involved in provincial Ministry of Health public health unit calls twice a week; as well as weekly MOH calls with MOHs and AMOH across the province. These are all important opportunities to share and learn together, advocate for the unique northern context, and demonstrate the strength of the public health system to work together while recognizing potential local and regional differences that may require consideration.

Dr Catton also participates in a few provincial committees and panels, this includes Council of Directors of Education-Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (CODE-COMOH); a COMOH school working group; Provincial Testing Strategy panel, and in a provincial surveillance working group.

COVID Response within the Porcupine Health Unit

Current IMS remains ongoing and is under current revision to reflect the needs at this time and evolving response to the pandemic. There is a plan underway to increase training of several staff to support COVID work and prepare for potential surges or the second wave. With the recognition of the need to expand management capacity, two temporary program managers are being added to the team. In addition, plans for temporary/part time and casual positions to support both the COVID response and ensure other important public health work continues. This staff will also support the flu clinics and the clinics offered for grade 7 student immunization program.

Other Important Non-COVID Public Health Work 

Some key public health programs have remained ongoing, and at times increased due to local context and demand. This includes outreach, harm reduction and the opioid response. The region continues to see increases in suspected opioid related overdoses. The PHU has worked with the opioid emergency task force to monitor and respond to these increases and any alerts related to particular substances to reduce the risk of overdose events. This response has included media alerts, social media and website posts and alerts regularly, and shared with partners, notices to all community partners, including hospital emergency departments and pharmacies to increase access to naloxone, and addiction, mental health services, and enforcement partners. The PHU has increased outreach, increased training of organizations to distribute naloxone, and has maintained access to the harm reduction clinic.

Other Important Public Health Work

  • Healthy Babies Healthy Children (HBHC); infant feeding; Canadian prenatal nutrition program (CPNP) - working to increase access to the programs and services.
  • Sexual health clinic – provided ongoing follow up of infections and virtual support, increasing in person clinics and supports.
  • Speech – providing virtual support for clients requiring speech language services.
  • Bylaw development – Supported Town of Cochrane with their development of alcohol and tobacco policies. 
  • Immunization
    • Over the summer offered catch up on school immunizations that were missed last year after school closures.
    • Finalizing plans for mass flu immunization clinics across the PHU, as well as immunization clinics to be offered to grade 7 students who would have received their immunizations in school this year. All with COVID-precautions in place.

Ongoing Health Protection Work:

Many health protection services continued and in some areas the demand for support increased during COVID.

  • Follow up of all reportable diseases - includes TB, iGAS, Salmonella, E.coli and others
  • Inspections of settings as required by OPHS and ministry protocols – Personal Service Settings (PSS), restaurants, pools, beaches, water systems, etc.
  • Support for emergencies and evacuations – Kapuskasing and Timmins this year
  • Investigation of complaints in inspected settings

Porcupine Health Unit Staff  

The PHU team has demonstrated incredible professionalism, dedication with their ongoing endless hours to responding to the pandemic. PHU has implemented public health measures within the offices – starting with an active screening email everyone is asked to complete daily. Staff have been provided IPAC information, policies, training, and education on PPE usage. There are posters, stickers and signs promoting distancing, spaces have been assessed to determine maximum numbers to allow distancing, mask use in all public access areas, and anywhere else were distancing is a challenge. Weekly all-staff grand rounds offer an opportunity to stay connected with staff across the region, to provide local regional and provincial updates and answer questions and concerns. The management team continues to look to ways to support staff, and recognize the great work done for many months now.

7. Board of Health Committee Minutes and Reports

Program Committee

Program Committee Minutes – June 25, 2020

A Program Committee meeting was held prior to the Board of Health meeting; the minutes were received for information; the following motion was read:

MOVED BY: Denis Clement
SECONDED BY: Kristin Murray

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-52

Be It Resolved, that the minutes from the Board of Health Program Committee meeting held on June 25, 2020, be received for information.


COVID-19 101 Update – Dr. Lianne Catton

Mickey Auger thanked Dr. Catton for providing and informative update with regard to COVID-19.

Resource Committee

Resource Committee Minutes – June 25, 2020

A Resource Committee meeting was held prior to the Board of Health meeting; the minutes were received for information; the following motion was read:

MOVED BY: Rock Whissell
SECONDED BY: Pat Britton

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-53

Be It Resolved, that the minutes from the Board of Health Resource Committee meeting held on June 25, 2020, be received for information.


Resource Committee Reports

Revenues and Expenditures – Period Six Months Ended June 30, 2020

The Revenues and Expenditures report for the Porcupine Health Unit for the six months ended June 30, 2020 was reviewed. The following motion was read:

MOVED BY: Pat Britton
SECONDED BY: Rock Whissell

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-54

Be It Resolved, that the Revenues and Expenditures report for the Board of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit for the six months ended June 30, 2020 be approved.


Pandemic Pay Report and Proposed Plan

The Pandemic Pay report and proposed plan for the Porcupine Health Unit was reviewed. The following motion was read:

MOVED BY: Rock Whissell
SECONDED BY: Pat Britton

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-55

Be It Resolved, that the Pandemic Pay report and proposed plan for the Board of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit be approved.


COVID-19 Response – Costs to Date

The COVID-19 Response - Costs to Date report for the Porcupine Health Unit, as of July 31, 2020, was reviewed. The BOH acknowledged the report and supports the recommendations brought forward by the Resource Committee to increase staff capacity, in the response to COVID-19.

8. Correspondence

Board of Health correspondence was provided to Board members for review. There were no questions related to BOH correspondence and no further discussion required.

9. New Business

Board of Health Bylaws

Whereas, the Board of Health Bylaws to Regulate the Proceedings of the Board of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit were updated to reflect the current Ontario Public Health Standards and Public Health Accountability Framework and any necessary revisions were made.

Whereas, the Board of Health for Porcupine Health Unit received two weeks in advance of meeting,  the proposed updates to the Board of Health Bylaws to Regulate the Proceedings of the Board of Health and reviewed September 10, 2020.  The following motion was read:

Now Therefore Be It Resolved, that the Board of Health approve the proposed revisions to the Board of Health Bylaws to Regulate the Proceedings for the Board of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit effective September 10, 2020.

MOVED BY: Drago Stefanic
SECONDED BY: Denis Clement

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-56

Be It Resolved, that the COVID-19 Response – Costs to Date report for the Board of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit, as of September 10, 2020 be approved.


10. In Camera

No in-camera business.

11. Date of Next Meeting and Adjournment

The following motion was read:

MOVED BY: Cleo Charlebois
SECONDED BY: Mickey Auger

Board of Health Resolution #BOH-2020-09-57

Whereas, the next meeting of the Board of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit be held on October 29, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. and that this meeting adjourns.


Approved by: Board of Health, October 29, 2020
Original Signed by: Sue Perras, Chair, Board of Health