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Search on for new Medical Officer of Health; vaccine updates for shingles, HPV

The Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health launched its search for a new medical officer of health.

Dr. Richard Schabas officially announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of December 2016, after 11 years. He first informed the board in January but formalized his plan in writing.

Schabas was Ontario’s chief medical officer of health from 1987 to 1997; chief of staff at a Toronto area hospital and came to Prince Edward Public Health in 2005. He contributed to many provincial public health initiatives including the Ontario Tobacco Strategy, immunization programs, introduction of breast cancer and colon cancer screening programs and the control of the 2003 SARS outbreak.

‘His knowledge and experience has been instrumental in guiding the delivery of public health services within our community, and we wish him the very best in his retirement,” said Terry McGuigan, board chairman.

The board has initiated the process to fill his position using a recruitment firm to assist the committee. Plans are under way to secure interim coverage to ensure operations continue without disruption throughout the transition.

Dr. Schabas will also be retiring from his clinical practice of Internal Medicine at Campbellford Memorial Hospital at the end of the year.

The search committee includes McGuigan, vice-chair and Tweed Mayor Jo-Anne Albert, provincial appointees Maureen Piercy and Douglas Lafreniere and Quinte West councillor Karen Sharpe.

In other news at Wednesday’s Health Board meeting:

Shingles vaccine funded for seniors aged 65-70
Shingles Vaccine (Zostavax II) is now publicly funded for individuals between the ages of 65-70. In addition, individuals born in 1945 (who turn 71 in 2016) are eligible for the publicly-funded vaccine until the end of 2016.

Public funding of this vaccine aims to encourage seniors to proactively seek the vaccination and reduce the occurrence of shingles and associated complications. The HPE Board of Health was told one-third of Canadians will develop shingles over their lifetime, and two-thirds of the cases of shingles are in individuals aged 50 and older. The risk of developing shingles increases as an individual ages.

Publicly funded vaccine is available through either an individual’s primary care practitioner or Public Health. Individuals that do not qualify for the publicly funded vaccine may choose to receive the vaccine at a recurring Public Health vaccination clinic at a cost of $210.

Delivery of HPV Vaccine expands
The Vaccine and Preventable Disease program has expanded the delivery of Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines to both girls and boys in Grade 7. Until now the vaccine has only been offered to females.

The board leanred the change aligns with provincial efforts to reduce the occurrence of HPV and associated preventable cancers. In addition, the vaccine is now available to some high risk populations under the age of 26.

Flu clinics available
HPEPH will offer flu immunization clinics throughout the region in November 2016.

Review of Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program
As part of the modernization of the Public Health Standards, a third-party review is taking place of the 36 HBHC programs being delivered across the province. A final report by the end of the year is expected to contain recommendations. The HBHC program assists vulnerable families and women who would benefit from additional support, from pregnancy until the time a child enters school with an aim to promote optimal physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development in children through a system of preventive and effective early intervention services. The program includes home visits by a public health nurse and a home visitor to provide prenatal, postpartum, and parenting support, and coordinates effective and integrated services for healthy child development and family well-being.

Workplace safety workshops
HPEPH has partnered with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services to protect and promote the psychological health, safety, and wellbeing of workers in the region. Through a grant from the Ministry of Labour’s Occupational Health and Safety Prevention and Innovation program, a series of workshops will be provided to employers throughout the region. These workshops, entitled ‘Investing in Healthy Minds @ Work’, are designed to create health and safety action plans consistent with the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Work place. Workshop dates, details, and information regarding recruitment of participants will become available in early 2017.

Beach monitoring continues
The board was provided with an update from the Beach Monitoring and Reporting Program, which provide surveillances, monitoring and reporting on local beaches from May to September each year. Moving forward, HPEPH will be working with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and Quinte Conservation to implement a co-ordinated approach to raise public awareness of the potential presence of blue/green algae blooms within the region.

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