Annual Report 2021
- Message from Dr. Penny Sutcliffe
- Message from René Lapierre
- COVID-19 vaccine program
- Preventing COVID-19 spread
- COVID-19 measures in workplaces and public places
- Community drug strategies
- School health recovery
- School-focused nurses initiative
- City of Greater Sudbury’s Virtual Community Infrastructure Project
- Infrastructure modernization
- Staff recruitment
- 2021 Timeline of COVID-19
Message from Dr. Penny Sutcliffe
Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer for Public Health Sudbury & Districts
We weathered the COVID-19 storm in 2020 and readied ourselves for 2021, hopeful that vaccines would provide much needed protection across our service area—and indeed globally. Early in 2021, the first doses of vaccine began to arrive and were administered to those most vulnerable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including those in long-term care homes and others living in higher-risk settings, and ultimately to many more through Public Health-led mass vaccination clinics. Into the spring and summer, supported by—and arm-in-arm with—many community partners, we worked tirelessly to administer tens of thousands of doses at countless vaccination clinics throughout our vast service area, in remote, urban, and rural settings.
The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines offered hope as an important tool in our work to reduce the health and societal effects of the pandemic. We have been successful, and our sense of collective accomplishment is well earned. This enthusiasm is at the same time, tempered by very real sacrifices and losses faced by many—losing loved ones and coping with illness and stress, and enduring economic and financial hardships.
With the steady hands of our Public Health team, the leadership of the Board of Health, and the many, many partner agencies and individuals, our collective strengths shone through. I am proud of our communities and of the professionalism that continues to exemplify the Public Health response to the ever-evolving pandemic.
While much of our attention was focused on an intense COVID-19 response, our 2021 Annual Report highlights other Public Health priorities. For example, we continued to form partnerships and move forward on concrete actions to address the crisis of substance use across the districts. We have been working with area schools to improve the health of students and staff, including offering mindfulness and mental health training, and ensuring students were able to learn in person and in the classroom as much and as safely as possible.
In 2021, we navigated many challenges. Along with the rest of the country, our agency faced the unfathomable news of the discoveries of the graves of children who attended residential schools in Canada. We continue to reflect and act on advancing truth and learning about the tragic history and legacy of residential schools and commit to reconciliation in support of health equity for all. We know that reconciliation cannot come without truth, justice, and accountability.
Public Health is determined to chart a path toward recovery, yet maintaining our agility to respond to evolving pandemic needs. Kindness, compassion, and patience bolstered by humility, trust, and respect anchor us on our journey to recovery.
It is my pleasure to present Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ 2021 Annual Report: Strong and Steady in Uncertain Times.
Message from René Lapierre
Chair, Board of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts
Reflecting on the past year, I am reminded of the critical role Public Health has played in protecting our communities. In 2021, COVID-19 demanded our full attention and rapid ability to monitor, adapt and respond, be it to control outbreaks and support cases and contacts of COVID-19 infections or to roll out a rapidly evolving vaccination program. Guided by Dr. Penny Sutcliffe’s steadfast and compassionate leadership, the professionalism of Public Health staff, and our incredible partners from all sectors at all levels, we rose to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and administered large volumes of vaccine in record time.
These achievements underscore the value of public health in our communities: even in times of considerable disruption and uncertainty, Public Health adjusted, collaborated, and responded in-step with community needs to protect the health of residents and reduce the burden on an overstretched health care system. In addition to their steady response to the global pandemic, Public Health staff were also committed to other vital programming, notably working to establish a supervised consumption site in Greater Sudbury to save lives and serve as one of the necessary interventions in the current overdose crisis.
Wise investments in public health mean we can meet the health needs of our communities—for today and the future. Although COVID-19 continues to present challenges, I believe that our strengths, focus, and resolve will continue to allow us to balance competing priorities and chart a course for the recovery of the health and well-being of our communities.
It remains my honour to serve as Board Chair, and I am pleased to present the 2021 Annual Report: Strong and Steady in Uncertain Times.
COVID-19 vaccine program
Over the past year, Public Health Sudbury & Districts worked tirelessly to plan, coordinate, and host vaccination clinics for individuals across our service area.
The success of last year’s COVID-19 vaccine program was also due to the strong partnerships and close coordination with many in the health system across our service area and beyond. Working with key partners—including area First Nations and First Nations-led agencies, municipalities, health providers, and individual volunteers—Public Health developed a vaccination approach that was not only effective, efficient, and aligned with federal and provincial directives, but one that addressed barriers to equal access, engaging with equity seeking groups, for example, those living in remote areas, Indigenous Peoples, and persons with disabilities. By using focused, respectful outreach and purposeful planning, Public Health and our partners were able to bring vaccines to the arms of individuals who might otherwise not have been protected.
Activities in support of greater vaccine equity included clearer and accessible signage at clinics and in mass marketing campaigns, the coordination of transportation opportunities through public transit and taxi, altering the timing of clinics and making sure to offer clinics at a variety of locations including long-term care homes and congregate settings; in First Nations and urban Indigenous centres; pop-up clinics at shopping malls, at local shelters, or outside gym facilities; and using the mobile bus clinic.
Preventing COVID-19 spread
COVID-19 response activities were ongoing throughout 2021. The year began with a resurgence of COVID-19 across the province and the introduction of additional measures by the Government of Ontario to address the spread of the virus. Public Health staff continued to work tirelessly—while demonstrating our core values of humility, trust, and respect—conducting timely case and contact management and providing individuals with important instructions on how to reduce the spread of infection, to protect people and the health care system.
From January to December 2021, Public Health reported 5 553 total cases of COVID-19 and identified 20 810 contacts, and for a period of time, our service area held the highest case rate in the province. Our agency worked closely with partners to manage 167 declared COVID-19 outbreaks, including 29 in highest risk settings like long-term care and retirement homes and other congregate living settings such as jails, shelters, or group homes. The remaining outbreaks were declared in school and daycare settings and workplaces.
As lead agency for our service area’s Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Hub, Public Health also welcomed the opportunity to work with our system partners to support community-based congregate living settings, assess their IPAC preparedness, and increase their IPAC knowledge. The IPAC Hub worked to provide education, advice, guidance, and on-site assessments to protect vulnerable populations from infectious diseases, like COVID-19, and increase quality of life for residents, families, and staff.
With widespread transmission of COVID-19 occurring, Public Health introduced additional measures locally to limit the spread of the virus. In October, the Medical Officer of Health issued a Class Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, requiring all individuals in Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ service area who are either a case, potential case, or contact of a case to follow Public Health direction, enforceable by law, to help slow the spread of COVID-19. As the Omicron variant became the dominant COVID-19 strain circulating, our agency ended the year with a focus on offering booster doses to all eligible individuals to increase their protection against severe illness.
COVID-19 measures in workplaces and public places
Public Health COVID-19 response activities were extensive and included case, contact, and outbreak management; the COVID-19 vaccination program; COVID-19 prevention and behaviour change; school health; and ongoing reporting and communication to partners and members of the public. This was supported by data analysis and epidemiological reviews, partner engagement, human resources, and information technology supports.
While Public Health staff remained focused on preventing COVID-19 transmission in the community and in settings serving vulnerable individuals, much work was also underway working with partners to implement COVID-19 protective measures in workplaces and public places. Staff offered ongoing, proactive education to businesses and organizations by reviewing COVID-19 workplace policies or public place safety plans, in addition to responding to complaints in partnership with police and by-law officers.
In 2021, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health, introduced time-limited measures by way of five Letters of Instructions issued under the Reopening Ontario Act to owners and operators. Public Health staff offered education in addition to enforcing regulations under the Reopening Ontario Act and the Health Protection and Promotion Act.
People had to make many sacrifices to keep families, communities, and the health systems safe—these sacrifices came at a time when all had already given so much. Public Health recognizes the significant toll of the pandemic on so many people, and we share our gratitude to all for the efforts to keep one another safe. Public Health staff have also stepped up to help foster community support, trust, and confidence, while dealing with many challenges themselves yet working tirelessly to protect our communities.
Community drug strategies
Local and regional opioid crisis: Sounding the alarm
As part of our response to the escalating crisis of substance use in our communities, Public Health continued to prioritize important partnerships to develop and support community drug strategies tailored to local needs.
Multiple inclusion and anti-stigma initiatives were introduced to provide education on harm reduction, including placement of decals on City of Greater Sudbury-owned needle disposal bins to promote naloxone and the distribution of 14 079 doses of naloxone through memorandums with 27 partners. Our INSIGHTS campaign featured video testimonials from various community members to share important perspectives on how supervised consumption and treatment services can save lives. In partnership with Réseau ACCESS Network, an application was submitted to the Federal Government for an exemption to operate a supervised consumption site in Greater Sudbury. This is in addition to an application for funding to the Provincial Government. In response to the opioid crisis in the North, seven Northern Ontario health units created a Northern Public Health Opioid Response Community of Practice to share knowledge and explore innovative approaches to address the effects of opioids.
We know there is not just one quick solution, and in the presence of an ongoing toxic drug supply, Public Health remains focused on preventing the harms associated with substance use by offering education and awareness-raising activities, working to build resilient communities, and strengthening local partnerships and policies as part of immediate, medium, and long-term collective strategies to address this crisis.
School health recovery
Our collaboration with local schools and School Boards recognizes that a resilient school community is a community that thrives. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we remained committed to our work to improve the health and well-being of staff and students. Our School Health Promotion Team continued to engage with and respond to School Board requests, as best possible, providing timely and relevant information and resources. Health promotion and prevention program supports were offered to schools on topics such as mental health, substance use, and healthy sexuality to support curriculum implementation in the classroom and to address school needs.
A notable success in 2021 was the offering of nine Mindfulness sessions to students at one secondary school. These sessions helped students manage stress and adversity by coaching them on positive coping strategies. In addition, a team member from the School Health Promotion Team facilitated mental health sessions for students from JK to Grade 8 at a local elementary school. The interactive and age-appropriate activities allowed students to identify their emotions, learn about the stress response and their brain, and identify personal strengths.
Teachers were also provided with resources to use in class and share with parents. When adults in children’s lives create positive experiences, and teach and model positive coping strategies, students can benefit from improved self-regulation and can have the ability to be resilient and flourish.
School-focused nurses initiative
Throughout 2021, Public Health and partners in education shared a common aim—an unwavering commitment to protect students and school communities from COVID-19. Working together, essential services and supports were offered to implement provincial direction on COVID-19 prevention and management in schools, with a goal of preserving in-person learning. School-focused nurses were funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health to help sustain this work and offer additional capacity. These public health nurses supported local schools by responding to requests for support from directors of education, superintendents, principals, schools, child care centres, and summer camps, as well as parents and guardians. They provided education and consultations to build capacity related to COVID-19 and strengthen relationships with school communities.
School-focused nurses provided critical, timely updates and guidance about managing symptoms and using screening tools; COVID-19 exposures and case and contact management, outbreak management, and when to seek testing; infection prevention and control measures and personal protective requirements; and the importance of COVID-19 vaccination. The nurses also played a vital role in getting COVID-19 and other publicly funded vaccines into arms at clinics throughout our service area. Information was also developed and shared on Public Health’s dedicated website pages for schools, on social media channels, and with schools throughout the school year. This work was critical in reducing the burden of COVID-19 in area schools.
During periods when the benefits of face-to-face learning were outweighed by the risks in of COVID-19 transmission in the community and schools returned to remote learning, public health nurses adapted and continued to provide dedicated support in the virtual environment.
City of Greater Sudbury’s Virtual Community Infrastructure Project
Strong working relationships are a cornerstone to creating healthy communities for all. Public Health plays a key role by working with partners in our service area to address the most important determinants of health, such as education, employment, housing, and access to services.
In 2021, the City of Greater Sudbury received a grant from Ontario Health, connected with the Ontario Telemedicine Network, to engage in a multi-sectoral partnership with health and social services to reduce barriers to equitable access to virtual services. A key goal of the project was to improve access to virtual services, including from the health sector, for individuals living in low income. The project focused on virtual infrastructure initiatives within existing municipal social housing. Public Health supported the virtual community infrastructure pilot project by providing guidance on COVID-19 related protocols and developing a framework to evaluate overall outcomes of the project.
The learnings gleaned from the evaluation framework also supported the creation of a provincial digital health playbook to guide Ontario Health Teams to increase virtual resources to support the health and well-being of individuals.
In the spring of 2020, significant investments were undertaken at two Public Health office sites in Greater Sudbury—the main office at 1300 Paris Street and the Elm Place office. The Infrastructure Modernization Project prioritized these locations to update aging infrastructure to reduce increasing maintenance costs and enhance energy efficiency, increase accessibility, comply with infection prevention and control standards, and increase Public Health’s ability to serve more clients. In addition, the Elm Place office location underwent significant upgrades to deliver the provincially mandated Ontario Seniors Dental Care program.
Additional outcomes of modernizing these sites include maximizing the use of common spaces and work areas, strengthening information technology, enhancing security measures, and achieving greater energy efficiencies through, for example, retrofitting the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, installing high-efficiency lighting, and reducing water use with low-flow faucets.
These newly renovated locations will help Public Health refocus its efforts on its multitude of programming responsibilities while continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that community needs are met.
With staff working remotely due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the disruptions of undertaking demolition and construction were greatly reduced. And, in instances where staff needed to be in the office or where in-person client services continued, temporary alternate office and clinic sites were established.
As of February 2022, Public Health welcomed clients back to the newly renovated Elm Place site to access the Ontario Seniors Dental Care program and services related to sexual health, family growth, and harm reduction for people who use substances. Starting in August 2022, clients were once again able to access clinics at the main office at 1300 Paris Street for breastfeeding support, immunizations, and oral health care. In addition, environmental health services previously offered at a temporary location returned to 1300 Paris Street. As part of the agency’s hybrid work model, many Public Health employees have returned to work at the Paris Street location.
Mounting an effective local COVID-19 response meant redeploying roughly 75% of our workforce—including nurses, public health inspectors, health promoters, registered dietitians, dental hygienists and educators, among others. Staff quickly adapted to unfamiliar pandemic-related work, applied their skills to COVID-19-specific demands, and rose to the challenges. The relentless intensity and long hours of work—combined with the uncertainty that everyone experienced in the pandemic personally and professionally—posed great challenges given the sheer volume of tasks and responsibilities. Our staff demonstrated incredible resilience and commitment while serving our communities during a period of sustained demand on Public Health leadership and resources.
In 2021, we hired over 384 temporary new staff to support our COVID-19 efforts, for example, immunizers, inventory and scheduling clerks, response assistants, pharmacy technicians, and planning and logistics leads. This additional capacity helped Public Health resume work on other non-COVID-19 priorities to meet the needs of our communities. Other Ontario public health units and the provincial workforce also supplemented our local resources to help keep up with the demands of the pandemic. Words are inadequate to express our gratitude for the health and human resources support offered by our many partner agencies and citizens throughout our service area, including municipalities, primary care providers, non-health care sector agencies, and volunteers.
2021 operating budget: $29,784,059:
- 13.54% operating and occupancy ($4,032,190 actual expenses)
- 4.73% public health programs that are 100% provincially funded ($1,410,158 actual expenses)
- 81.73% public health programs jointly funded by the province and area municipalities ($24,341,711 actual expenses)
2021 Timeline of COVID-19
- January 12: Government of Ontario announces second provincial emergency lockdown and Stay-at-Home Order
- January 13: Public Health supports administration of the first COVID-19 vaccination in its service area at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home
- February 5: COVID-19 Delta variant confirmed in Sudbury and districts
- February 10: Public Health vaccinates all consenting residents of area long-term care homes, retirement homes, and Elder Care Lodges
- February 16: Students return to in-person learning
- February 23: Ontario introduces stricter self-isolation and screening requirements
- February 26: Public Health hosts first mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic for additional populations at an arena in Sudbury
- March 7: Medical Officer of Health issues Letter of Instruction to all food premises and sports and recreation facilities
- March 11: Ontario activates “emergency brake” for Sudbury and districts, area moves into lockdown
- March 11: Public Health follows extended interval for second doses to offer first doses sooner to more people
- March 11: Medical Officer of Health instructs certain schools in Sudbury and districts to transition to virtual learning
- Week of April 1: Ontario announces a province-wide shutdown and Stay-at-Home Order
- May 10: Public Health supports first local drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic
- June 14: Over 500 doses administered at Public Health’s first walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic
- July 9: Public Health hosts first pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Sudbury
- July 12: Public Health and the City of Greater Sudbury launch mobile vaccination clinic
- August 30: Medical Officer of Health recommends area employers introduce COVID-19 vaccination policies and support workplace vaccination
- October 28: Medical Officer of Health advises Sudbury and districts a COVID-19 province hotspot, issues Class Order
- November 3: COVID-19 booster doses become available in Sudbury and districts
- November 8: Rapid rise in COVID-19 cases triggers additional, mandatory public health measures in Greater Sudbury
- December 14: Public Health braces for COVID-19 Omicron variant, encourages rapid uptake of booster doses
- December 30: Ontario adjusts testing and self-isolation guidelines in response to Omicron variant
This item was last modified on January 4, 2024