I know that all of you are actively engaged in planning for the challenges we are facing with respect to COVID-19. Monday morning (March 16th) Karyn Santiago and I were part of the first of what are to become weekly calls of the Social Services Sector Roundtable. Minister Simpson acknowledged that this is a challenging time for everyone and these calls are being organized specifically to review the role of social service organizations throughout this crisis as well as to identify and strategize around the unique issues we face. The concern is how to both meet the needs of the individuals receiving support as well as ensuring that staff stay well. Dr. Daniele Behn Smith from the Public Health Office was also present during this call who advised that there was no need to close services providing the group did not exceed 50 persons and that people must be able to maintain social distancing and frequent handwashing protocols. She also stipulated that disinfecting procedures should be increased as well as decreasing opportunities for community interaction. We are expecting more formal information from the Public Health Office today with respect to community living services but this has not yet been received.
We are also aware that personal protection supplies are generally unavailable. This includes masks, eye shields, gowns and hand sanitizer. It is our understanding that CLBC is working directly with the Ministry of Health to ensure that supplies will be available on an “as required” basis. This does mean that stockpiling is not an option. I have been asked to let you know that if you require supplies you should contact your local CLBC Analyst and identify what you need and the quantity. CLBC will escalate these requests through Health. Again, this should be a basic request for a 2 week supply; not an unlimited quantity. At this point it is unclear whether Health will be able to respond and we will continue to look into other supplier options.
This morning (March 17th) we held a single-item Board call to review the need for a more coordinated approach to the crisis. We are aware that some of our members have already closed Community Inclusion services and are re-deploying staff to ensure that individuals are receiving the support they need. Others are in the process of finalizing plans for closures and moving to essential service levels. Everyone is planning with the intention of keeping everyone as safe as possible and minimizing the risks of further spread of COVID-19. This is a daily evolving situation and we recognize the pressure you are all feeling.
Each of you will need to make decisions for your organization that are best for those you serve, your employees and your community. There will be variation from agency to agency about what is considered an essential service. At this point we are encouraging you to consider the following as you plan:
• Ensure that you are planning within your agency’s capacity.
• Coordinate with other agencies in your community where possible. You may be able to assist each other with sharing resources where that makes sense.
• Communicate with families and caregivers to determine what support they may require if you close services and deploy staff as is possible to ensure these circumstances are addressed.
• Continue to advise your CLBC Analyst of your plans.
• Ensure you have succession plans for all important positions within your agency (i.e. payroll will need to be met).