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2022 Annual Report
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Annual Report 2022

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is a champion of health for all. We work with individuals and families, agencies and communities in Simcoe Muskoka to promote and protect health, and to prevent disease and injury of the people we serve. We do this by providing a variety of public health programs and services, as well as working in collaboration with community partners on policies and initiatives that protect and promote health and well-being for all.

The health unit is governed by the Board of Health and is funded municipally and provincially. We are guided by the Ontario Public Health Standards and our own core values to work toward achieving our mission and vision. This Annual Report highlights the health unit’s work and achievements in 2022.

Our Mission

With our communities, we prevent disease and injury, and promote and protect health for all in Simcoe Muskoka.

Our Vision
Healthy People. Healthy Places.
Our Values

RESPECT We believe that respect for all people is embedded within our relationships with each other, and is reflected in our work.

COLLABORATION We believe that by working with others we can achieve the best health outcomes for all.

ACCOUNTABILITY  We believe in being transparent and responsible to the public and our stakeholders by using ethical and sustainable organizational practices.

EQUITY We believe that all people are entitled to achieve their full health potential.

EXCELLENCE We believe in providing the highest quality programs and services to achieve our vision.

POSITIVE WORKPLACE We believe in a work environment where our employees are valued, communicate openly, and have work-life balance.

Message Headers 2022 Ann-Marie 


Throughout 2022, the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit (SMDHU) has continued to be instrumental to the local COVID-19 pandemic response. As each wave of the pandemic brought new challenges, the health unit has demonstrated steadfast leadership and worked with many community partners, agencies and organizations that played a huge role in the overall COVID-19 response in Simcoe Muskoka.

Two years into the pandemic and a year after the first COVID-19 immunizations began, the health unit began to work on its recovery plan in 2022. Important programs that support people through their life stages began to come back online with the resumption of programs like breastfeeding support groups for new parents, in-school dental screenings for children, and Grade 7 catch-up and routine immunization clinics.

It will take time for the deficits and backlogs resulting from the pandemic to be resolved. The Association of Local Public Health Agencies has advocated to the province to support provincial investment in preparing for future pandemic responses and greater financial investments in local public health agencies (such as SMDHU) to continue its mandate to protect and promote the health of our population.

Significant public health concerns in 2022, including an increase of opioid overdoses in our community and an outbreak of Legionella underscores the importance of public health investment and drives our ongoing advocacy work. The SMDHU Board of Health has advocated for the Ministry of Health to approve a Consumption and Treatment Service site (CTS) in Barrie and for a province-wide cooling tower registry to address the risk of Legionella infections, both of which would have significant and direct impacts on the lives of people in our community.

After what has been the most challenging time in the health unit’s history, on behalf of the Board of Health, I wish to thank Dr. Gardner and his Executive team for their steady and consistent guidance and leadership throughout the pandemic response. This work would not be possible without the dedication and commitment of the health unit staff, who tirelessly worked to maintain our COVID-19 response while also working to bring critical public health programs back online. For this we thank you.

Finally, the Board of Health welcomed a number of new faces and said goodbye to members whose terms concluded following the municipal election in October 2022. As chair, I thank those who have served on the Board so diligently and I look forward to working with a new board that is eager to continue the role of public health advocate to help ensure the health and safety of our community.

Ann-Marie Kungl

Board of Health Chair



Message Headers 20222 Dr. Gardner


Since the declaration of the global COVID-19 pandemic on March 11, 2020, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has been at the forefront of the local response. By January 2022, a fifth wave of COVID-19 had begun and the Omicron variant had emerged and become the dominant strain in Ontario. With mortality that sadly exceeded all prior variants combined, Omicron spread rapidly and strained hospitals and Ontario’s health care system. The health unit continued its COVID-19 surveillance, case and contact management, outbreak management, monitoring and preventive measure enforcement, immunization and communications to the community. Many non-COVID-related public health programs remained on hold as some staff were redeployed to support an increased need for COVID-19 immunizations and booster doses for adults, while also maintaining access to vaccination for 5 to 11-year-olds.

While the COVID-19 response continued to dominate our work, SMDHU responded to an outbreak of Legionella and the spread of MPOX (formerly known as Monkeypox) within Canada. They help to highlight how public health resources are required to recover from the current pandemic, respond to ongoing and seasonal public health issues and to ensure we are prepared for future emergencies.

Over time the response to COVID-19 has shifted based on the pandemic trajectory, Ministry of Health direction, and learnings from the pandemic. SMDHU developed a Recovery Framework that focuses on six areas of the agency’s recovery plan: prevent and protect, people, programs and services, partnerships, plan, and finance. The framework provides criteria to help the agency, programs and staff prioritize activities as we work to rebuild capacity and resume our mandated public health programs and services that promote and protect the health of all those who live, work and play in Simcoe Muskoka.

While 2022 was a year of tremendous challenges, it was also a year of collaboration and I want to thank all our partners from so many sectors, including health, emergency services, education, municipal government, business and the Indigenous community. I am grateful for SMDHU’s staff and their unparalleled dedication and resilience that ensured critical public health work continued. I would also like to acknowledge the generosity of the volunteers who assisted with the successful operations of our COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Finally, I thank the members of the Board of Health for their on-going, strong support and leadership throughout 2022.

Dr. Charles Gardner

Medical Officer of Health


Current Board of Health members:

  • Sandy Cairns, District of Muskoka 
  • Ralph Cipolla, City of Orillia 
  • Anita Dubeau, Provincial Appointee
  • Bill Gordon, County of Simcoe
  • Stephen Kinsella, Provincial Appointee 
  • Peter Koetsier, District of Muskoka
  • Ann-Marie Kungl, Chair, City of Barrie
  • James Leduc, County of Simcoe
  • Nigussie Nigussie, City of Barrie 
  • Barry Norris, County of Simcoe
  • Larry Oehm, Provincial Appointee
  • Sondra Read, Provincial Appointee 
  • Ted Walker, County of Simcoe
  • Scott Warnock, Vice-Chair, Provincial Appointee
  • Peter Willmott, Provincial Appointee

Former Board of Health members:

  • Lynn Dollin
  • Rick Milne
  • Floyd Pinto
  • Gary Harvey

Medical Officer of Health:

Dr. Charles Gardner

Associate Medical Officers of Health:

Dr. Lisa Simon

Dr. Colin Lee

SMDHU COVID-19 Response

Throughout 2022, SMDHU continued to respond to the global COVID-19 pandemic declared by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. In January 2022, a fifth COVID-19 wave had just started with the Omicron variant emerging as the dominant stain in Ontario. Omicron spread rapidly, causing mortality that exceeded all prior variants combined and strained Ontario’s hospitals and overall healthcare system. The health unit continued its COVID-19 surveillance, case and contact management, outbreak management, monitoring and preventive measure education and enforcement, immunization and communications to the community. As a result, many non-COVID-related public health programs remained on hold as some staff were redeployed to support an increased need for COVID-19 immunizations and booster doses for adults, while also maintaining access to vaccination for 5 to 11-year-olds. The following section provides an overview of key COVID-19 events, data and operational highlights of our work responding to the pandemic in 2022.


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2022 COVID-19 Indicators

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About Pandemic Waves

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen multiple periods of time when the number of new cases quickly increases, which are often referred to as waves. A new wave occurs when there is a surge or rapid rise in the number of new cases that is later followed by a decline in cases. Waves of the pandemic are influenced by changes in viral transmission in the community, changes to public health measures, and at times when laboratory testing criteria [i.e., decrease in when polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests may be done] and case and contact investigation and management practices change and impact case counts.

COVID-19 Pandemic Timeline Overview

January 30, 2020: The World Health Organization (WHO) declares a public health emergency of international concern
March 11, 2020: WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic
March 11, 2020: Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reports its first local case of COVID-19
March 11, 2020: Wave 1 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka
March 17, 2020: Ontario declares a state of emergency (shown here with a vertical blue dashed line)
August 9, 2020: Wave 2 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka
February 14, 2021: Wave 3 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka
July 18, 2021: Wave 4 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka
December 12, 2021: Wave 5 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka
December 31, 2021: Changes to provincial testing strategy. PCR testing is only available for select high-risk groups, such as residents and staff in institutional settings.
March 13, 2022: Wave 6 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka
June 19, 2022: Wave 7 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka
September 11, 2022: Wave 8 of the pandemic starts in Simcoe Muskoka

About Vaccine Coverage

Percent Partially Vaccinated: percentage of the population five years and older that have received only one dose of a Health Canada approved two-dose primary series COVID-19 vaccine.

Percent Complete Primary Series Only: percentage of the population five years and older that have received one dose of a Health Canada approved single-dose primary series COVID-19 vaccine OR have received exactly two doses of a Health Canada approved two-dose primary series COVID-19 vaccine.

Percent Monovalent Booster Only: percentage of the population five years and older that have completed the primary series with a Health Canada approved single-dose or two-dose COVID-19 vaccine AND have received one or more monovalent booster doses AND have NOT received any bivalent booster doses.   

Percent Bivalent Booster: percentage of the population five years and older that have completed the primary series with a Health Canada approved single-dose or two-dose COVID-19 vaccine AND have received one or more bivalent booster doses.

Monovalent Vaccine: contains an mRNA component from only one strain of virus; the monovalent COVID-19 vaccine contains a component from the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.

Bivalent Vaccine: contains mRNA components from two strains of virus. The bivalent COVID-19 vaccine includes mRNA from the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 (just like the initial vaccine) and contains an mRNA component from the BA.1 or BA.4/BA.5 omicron variant (depending on the product).


The COVID-19 pandemic was the longest emergency the health unit has ever responded to, and it provided some unique challenges to the agency, our community partners and our clients. To better prepare for future emergencies, the agency conducted an evaluation to review our response and what could be improved upon in the future. The results of the evaluation provide important information for updating internal emergency management plans, working with partners, building public health capacity and supporting the agency’s recovery. The following information highlights some of the evaluation findings.

Client experience when attending a COVID-19 mass immunization clinic (MIC)

Immunization was a significant and substantial part of the health unit’s pandemic response. The following findings highlight the experiences of clients and volunteers who attended or worked at a SMDHU mass immunization clinic.

 Parent experience of taking their child(ren) aged 5-11 to get immunized at a MIC

  • Ninety-six per cent (96%) of respondents said the MIC where their child(ren) received their vaccination was child friendly.
  • Ninety-nine per cent (99%) of respondents said they were satisfied with staff taking the time to answer all their child(ren)’s questions before giving the vaccine.

Individual (aged 12+) experience of attending a MIC

  • Ninety-five per cent (95%) of respondents said the processes of registering, receiving the vaccination and aftercare were fast.
  • Ninety-eight per cent (98%) of respondents said they were satisfied with the precautions taken at the clinics to keep them safe.

Volunteer experience

  • Volunteers said they derived many benefits from volunteering at the mass vaccination clinics – they made new friends (51%), got their vaccinations sooner (39%), were no longer bored or isolated (35%), acquired new skills (20%), and felt healthier (15%).


The health unit worked with several external partners throughout the pandemic response to manage the spread of COVID-19 and to protect and promote the health of our population. When external organizations were asked about their perception of working with the health unit during the pandemic, respondents indicated that a top success of working with SMDHU on the COVID-19 response was the development of partnerships, and specifically working together to solve problems creatively.

The Urban Indigenous Vaccine Strategy was a collaboration between SMDHU and organizations that serve urban Indigenous Peoples in Simcoe Muskoka. It is an example of partners working together to accomplish common pandemic goals. A video produced by SMDHU and Mamaway Wiidokdaadwin highlights the partnership’s goals and the outcomes of an evaluation conducted by the organizations.

When the health unit asked its partners about the challenges of working with SMDHU during the pandemic, communications was identified as an issue due to the frequent changes to messages and guidance (often with little notice) and delays with getting timely information. Partners indicated that these circumstances resulted in communications often being conflicting and unclear.

The collaborative work with all its partners throughout Simcoe Muskoka was critical to the success experienced during the pandemic response, and the health unit looks forward to using this feedback and sustaining these relationships.

SMDHU Programs and Services

While managing the demands of the pandemic throughout 2022, the health unit also maintained priority programming essential to protecting health and preventing disease and injury. Although this programming was curtailed due to staff redeployment for the pandemic, the health unit mounted a significant response to an outbreak of Legionella in our area and the spread of MPOX (formerly known as Monkeypox) within Canada. SMDHU developed a Recovery Framework to help the agency, programs and staff prioritize activities as it worked to rebuild capacity and resume our mandated public health programs and services that promote and protect the health of all those who live, work and play in Simcoe Muskoka. The following section provides an overview of the health unit’s programs and services delivered in 2022.

2022 Indicators final

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Infectious Diseases Program

Program staff worked to prevent community transmission of urgent public health diseases such as tuberculosis, syphilis, invasive Group A Streptococcal infection and E. coli O157, and managed outbreaks of legionellosis, influenza and norovirus. Public health inspectors conducted limited infection prevention and control inspections of personal services and child care settings to ensure public health requirements were met. ID staff also answered inquiries to the non-COVID phone line and provided 24/7 on-call response for infectious diseases emergencies and reporting of cases and outbreaks of COVID-19 and other diseases.

Sexual Health Program

Priority activities were maintained in 2022, including offering sexual health care and education. Public health nurses responded to questions on the sexual health phoneline about sexually transmitted infections (STI) testing and treatment, birth control and abortions, and referred callers to various community healthcare services when appropriate. Though the hours of operation were reduced due to the pandemic, our sexual health clinics served clients in urgent need of birth control, emergency contraceptives, anonymous HIV testing or STI treatment that could not otherwise be accessed through a healthcare provider. The team continued to provide free STI medications to healthcare providers, walk-in clinics and hospitals. Public health nurses supported emergency response personnel, health care professionals and corrections staff by investigating Mandatory Blood Testing Act (MBTA) applications.    

Immunization Program

In 2022, the program resumed routine public clinics and the in-school Grade 7 immunization program, and continued vaccine distribution of all vaccines, including the Universal Influenza Immunization Program. To ensure students who missed receiving their Grade 7 immunizations due to the pandemic, the in-school program was extended to Grade 8 students and health unit nurses attended all Simcoe Muskoka high schools to offer catch-up clinics to eligible students. Immunization record submission and review for parents with children attending school was also available online and by phone. The team continued to support new facilities offering immunizations, providing training on vaccine storage and handling requirements, and completing inspections to ensure on-site vaccine safety storage requirement compliance. Meanwhile, staff continued to respond to inquiries from healthcare providers and to reports of adverse events following immunization for all publicly funded vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccine.


Smoke-Free Program

Smoking remains the leading cause of death in Canada and e-cigarettes threaten to addict a new generation of youth to nicotine. In 2022, the Smoke-Free Program (SFP) prioritized efforts to prevent youth vaping. Forty-three schools in Simcoe Muskoka were reached with vaping prevention and cessation using the Not An Experiment program. As part of this program an online computer game launched to teach youth about the effects of vaping. The SFP also provided counselling to adults who do not have access to resources to quit smoking and vaping. In 2022, 93% of clients remained smoke-free at six months.  

Smoke-Free Enforcement Program 

In 2022, the health unit’s Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017 (SFOA, 2017) Enforcement Program responded to 122 requests for service, which included public complaints, and conducted 817 display and promotion inspections of tobacco and vapour product retailers. Two-hundred and two (202) secondary school inspections, requests for education and enforcement support from school administrators were also completed. Additionally, 48 specialty vape store and two tobacconist registrations and renewals were processed within two weeks of receipt. 

Safe Water Program

Following several years of recreational water restrictions that were in place due to the pandemic, the Safe Water Program focused on recovery inspections in 2022. After COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the spring, public health inspectors prioritized inspections based on risk to ensure inspections took place prior to facilities reopening after months of inactivity. More than 1,020 inspections of recreational water facilities and small drinking water systems were completed. Inspectors also continued to respond to reports of adverse drinking water quality incidents, monitored public beaches, and issued health advisories in response to reports of blue-green algae.

Healthy Environments Program 

The Healthy Environments Program collaborated with municipal and community partners on activities to improve our communities’ resilience to climate change. Environmental surveillance provided real-time information about ticks and mosquitoes in Simcoe Muskoka. Public education to support the prevention of West Nile virus infection and Lyme disease transmission was also provided.

Food Safety Program

The Food Safety Program continued its food-borne illness prevention and elimination efforts by conducting risk assessments and inspections at high-risk and moderate-risk food premises. The team monitored and investigated all food recalls and complaints. Special event applications were reviewed to ensure best food safety practices and relevant COVID-19 precautions were adhered to.

Rabies Prevention and Control Program

Work continued with healthcare providers to reduce the risk of rabies in humans by investigating animal exposures and ensuring timely accessibility to vaccine for clients with high-risk exposures. The Rabies team also worked with local veterinarians to promote vaccination of domestic animals against rabies through the coordination of low-cost rabies clinics.

Emergency Management Program

Program staff focused on emergency preparedness planning and the coordination of public health response activities to prevent, respond to, and recover from incidents and emergencies that may put the health of Simcoe Muskoka residents at risk. In addition to continuing coordination and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Emergency Management Program strived to build emergency preparedness and response capacity for other public health risks such as extreme weather and flooding events, drinking water emergencies, mass overdose incidents, mass gatherings and technology/infrastructure failures. The goal is to ensure a 24/7 timely, integrated, safe and effective response to and recovery from emergencies that have public health impacts.


School Health Program

In the first half of 2022, the health unit worked collaboratively with local school boards, schools, and school communities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools. As the new school year approached in the fall of 2022, we continued to focus on COVID-19 prevention, as well as on partnerships to address indirect impacts of the pandemic and to gradually resume some routine public health programming for schools.

The School Health Program offered elementary and secondary schools an outreach visit by a public health nurse, which was accepted by approximately 80% of schools. During these visits the most common health topic identified by schools to address was mental health. Other common topics were nutrition/healthy eating, physical activity, and vaping. Many schools indicated plans to register for Ontario Physical and Health Education Association Healthy Schools Certification as a means of comprehensively addressing these and other important health topics. Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, public health nurses and registered dietitians have worked in partnership with other health unit programs, school boards/schools, and community partners to plan and implement school-based initiatives and services.

Substance Use and Injury Prevention Program

In 2022, there were 136 opioid related deaths in Simcoe Muskoka, significantly higher than the 89 opioid related deaths in 2019.  In response to the ongoing regional opioid crisis, the heath unit continued to provide needle exchange program and naloxone distribution support and services for community partnerships. The health unit onboarded two new needle exchange and six new naloxone distribution program partners and provided training and education for all. During the year, 2924 naloxone kits were distributed by naloxone distribution partnerships and 9,122 needle exchange program clients were provided services.

The health unit led the development of the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy Final Report, Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS) A Report on Actions (2018-2021) released in August 2022. This public report provided a summary of the goals and actions completed as part of the SMOS three-year action plan. In the Fall of 2022, the health unit lead the collaboration of regional community partners in the refresh planning for the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy. In partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe County Branch, the health unit continued to provide leadership and support while awaiting Health Canada and Ministry of Health approval of the Consumption and Treatment Site (CTS) applications for the Barrie CTS location at 11 Innisfil St. On Sept 9, 2022, exemption to section 56.1 of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act was granted for the Barrie CTS site. A CTS application status update request was made by both the health unit and CMHA SCB to the Ministry of Health in a letter sent on Dec 7, 2022.

In the spring of 2022, the Substance Use and Injury Prevention Program began repatriation of the re-deployed public health nurses and started a gradual recovery of re-building knowledge and re-engaging community partnerships within the program areas of Alcohol, Cannabis, Prevention of Substance Use, Aging and Wellness, and Suicide Prevention and Life Promotion.

Healthy Growth and Development Program

During 2022, the program focused supports on infant feeding. In particular, online breastfeeding support groups were established and offered twice a week to residents across Simcoe-Muskoka. In collaboration with the Barrie and Community Family Health Team Prenatal Well Baby Clinic, support continued for the lactation clinic once a week to provide clinical assessment and intervention for breastfeeding families. Online prenatal classes were offered by the health unit as well in 2022, as did support to our prenatal families through public health nurse participation in the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Programs, virtually.

Healthy Babies Healthy Children (HBHC) Program

From January to April 2022, most HBHC staff were redeployed to our COVID-19 response, resulting in a significant reduction in HBHC services and creating a waitlist of clients consenting to home visiting support. The program gradually resumed home visiting service over several months while focusing on staff re-orientation to HBHC program components and processes. HBHC staff successfully lowered the waitlist by the end of December. Significant time was spent on planning for re-engaging with key partners such as local hospitals and modifying the HBHC service delivery model, with the goal of continued reduction in the waitlist and a full staffing complement working at optimal levels of service delivery in 2023.

Chronic Disease Prevention Program

All Chronic Disease Prevention (CDP) Program staff were redeployed at various times to the COVID-19 pandemic work, and all returned to the program by June 2022. CDP team members reached out to key community partners to re-establish relationships to support future work together. To help inform CDP work planning, staff also sought to learn more from community partners about priority issues and the impact of the pandemic related to healthy eating, household food insecurity, physical activity, and the built environment. Additionally in 2022, the program conducted the Ontario Nutritious Food Basket Survey in Simcoe and Muskoka to gain critical data to support advocacy and actions targeted at reducing household food insecurity. The program supported the Simcoe County Food Council in developing provincial and municipal election toolkits to inform candidates, partners, and the public about critical community issues. CDP resumed active school travel planning work with municipalities, school boards and local schools. This involved reinstating the Simcoe Muskoka On the Move Steering Committee while recruiting new members and resuming the On the Move Initiative with selected local schools. CDP was also involved with providing feedback on municipal plans to address healthy community design related to the built environment and re-established involvement with relevant municipal committees of council.

Indirect Impacts Dashboard

In 2020, SMDHU’s Mitigating Harms of COVID-19 Public Health Measures Situational Assessment identified the need for ongoing surveillance of impacts the pandemic had on health and health equity. A list of priority indicators was identified to monitor and track over time to assess changes in health status during pandemic recovery and into the future. The Indirect Impacts surveillance dashboard was developed to present these indicators and highlight key areas of health status most impacted by the pandemic across eight domains: basic needs, child and family health, substance use, mental health, immunizations, oral health, infectious disease, and general health. This dashboard uses local data where possible, with data for Simcoe Muskoka, Simcoe County, Muskoka District and Ontario. The dashboard was launched in the summer of 2022. Updates are planned bi-annually.  

Community Risk Level Tool

The Community Risk Level was designed by the health unit to support the community in understanding the current risk associated with COVID-19 spread locally and what community members can do to protect themselves from COVID-19 infection and severe illness. Guided by the Medical Officers of Health, epidemiologists selected a variety of indicators to describe both COVID-19 transmission and severity and looked at historical data to identify four risk levels: Very High, High, Moderate and Lower (Caution). The Community Risk Level was developed during the first half of 2022 and launched in September 2022 and has been updated weekly throughout the 2022-2023 respiratory season. The tool is being re-visited in spring 2023 to ensure it remains useful and relevant to our community.

Wastewater Sampling

Wastewater surveillance is an emerging tool that allows us to track trends in COVID-19 infection in the community independent of changes in clinical testing practice. It helps us to understand patterns of community transmission, in conjunction with other public health data such as COVID-19 testing, reported cases, hospitalizations and outbreaks. In late 2020, SMDHU and four local municipalities along with Ontario Tech University partnered with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to participate in the Ontario Wastewater Surveillance Initiative to monitor SARS-CoV-2 trends in wastewater. In 2022, two new local municipalities joined the program. A new strategic provincial wastewater surveillance program was launched in April 2023 which focused on streamlining resources to priority sampling sites. Under this new network, Barrie and Midland continue to participate in local wastewater surveillance. Local wastewater surveillance data is posted to our COVID-19 HealthSTATS page and is incorporated into the weekly Community Risk Level.

Keeping People Informed

Communications remained a critical focus for the health unit during 2022 as we continued to keep the public and our partners updated on the pandemic. This included updates on COVID-19 vaccination recommendations and how to access the vaccine, and the promotion of the COVID-19 Community Risk Level to help people determine how to best protect themselves and others by layering up protective measures according to the current risk level. In addition to providing timely and credible COVID-19 information, the health unit increased its promotion of other important public health topics, programs, and services, such as food insecurity, prevention of Lyme disease, promotion of breastfeeding support services, blue-green algae advisories, Grade 7 catch-up immunization clinics, low-cost rabies clinics, and infectious diseases investigations such as Legionnaires. SMDHU uses a variety of communications channels to share information with the public, ranging from an active social media presence to being seen and heard in local papers (print and online), television and radio.

Responding to public inquiries is an important service provided by the health unit. Our Health Connection phone line is staffed by public health professionals who answer questions and provide information on a wide variety of health topics, such as breastfeeding, parenting, immunization status, water testing and much more. We also have a language line service to assist those who require service in a language other than English. In 2022, our Health Connection lines recorded close to 66,000 inquiries.

Throughout 2022, the Human Resources and Infrastructure Department provided technological advancement and on-going human resources and infrastructure support to the health unit while continuing to manage the demands of the pandemic. Several technological enhancements were implemented by the Information Technology (IT) team to increase agency IT security, including a multi-factor authentication (MFA) account login process and a system to provide enhanced malware and ransomware protection. In addition, software upgrades were made to support virtual work as part of the agency’s new hybrid work from home program. The Infrastructure team supported the expansion of the health unit’s 80 Bradford Dental Clinic in Barrie, which will accommodate the new senior’s dental program with three new dental operatories. The health unit’s pre-COVID employee count was 367 employees, which increased to 628 employees at the height of the pandemic and decreased to 434 at the end of 2022. The Human Resources team supported the recruitment and hiring of new employees, while continuing to support existing employees’ needs.

Financial Information

2022 Financials Layout

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