A doctor on Manitoulin Island is encouraging seasonal residents to stay home and not to visit during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The premier’s message on whether people should be able to go to their seasonal properties has been mixed. On Thursday, he told people who intend to visit their camps to ensure they are physically distancing. He’s also suggested they should just stay home during the pandemic. Doug Ford says local officials should have their wishes respected when it comes to travellers.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Maurianne Reade with the Manitoulin Centre Family Health Team wrote a letter to the local newspaper asking seasonal residents to stay home.
“If those cottagers get sick when they’re on the island or any other small rural communities, or if they get injured because they decide to cut their wood or out on their ATV, they come to our community hospitals,” she said. In the summertime, we’re typically quite used to that.”
But Reade says the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t a typical situation.
“The thing that really concerns us is combining that influx of seasonal residents with a pandemic situation is a bit of a recipe for a nightmare,” she said.
Reade says not only could injuries cause a strain on the healthcare system, people who get symptoms of COVID-19 while at their cottages could cause a problem.
“Sometimes people may think they have enough time to go back to their own community if they do start feeling sick but we do know that often COVID will cause people to get sick very quickly,” she said. “They may not have the opportunity to return home.”
Reade says changes have been made at the hospital to prepare for COVID-19, including making sure enough PPE is available and doing simulation exercises.
But Reade points out it is a small hospital that doesn’t have a CT scanner or advanced imaging and also doesn’t have ICU beds.
“We also want people to know that if they get seriously ill and they need to be put on a ventilator, that means having to transport them to an ICU bed in Sudbury,” she said.
“It usually takes somewhere around two and five hours to get the person in order to get the person either into an air ambulance or a road ambulance. Then, they have a two hour transport to get to the accepting hospital.”
Reade also says the health of the overall population on Manitoulin Island is more vulnerable than the rest of the province.
“We know that people with heart disease, people with significant diabetes .. those people are more susceptible to getting severe effects of COVID-19, so more susceptible of dying as a result,” she said.
“So if you combine that increase of seasonal tourism with a vulnerable population, that’s what we see as a perfect storm.”
So far, Reade says there have been two cases of COVID-19 on Manitoulin Island, both connected to international travel.