Pelee Island will now have a nurse three days a week — and a mobile health clinic on the island for the next month — amid a struggle to secure health care services for the community.
Erie Shores HealthCare (ESHC) announced on Monday it will be taking over the nursing station, with a dedicated nurse who is a resident of the island, on-site three days a week.
"This increased local presence ensures that residents and visitors have access to quality health care services right on the island," said ESHC in a statement Tuesday.
In addition, the Windsor-Essex Mobile Medical Support team will be on Pelee Island one day a week beginning Wednesday until Dec. 11, when the ferry stops for the season. It will offer services like COVID-19 and flu vaccines, cancer screenings and health assessments.
The Windsor-Essex Mobile Medical Support team will service Pelee Island residents with things like vaccines, cancer screenings and health assessments. (Erie Shores HealthCare)
Pelee Island Mayor Cathy Miller said the moves offer residents a sense of security and well-being.
"We have seniors, we have migrant workers, we have some people that aren't able to leave the island in the winter due to accessibility issues, so I think working with our local partners in Leamington — they're going to have an eye on their backyard," said Miller.
"I think they're excited to support this unique community that they can see just across the lake every day."
In September, Miller spoke with CBC News about the community's access to health care, after the permanent full-time nurse left the position. To provide some services the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) was bringing in contract nurses, but Miller said that still left gaps.
"We're very grateful for the support that they provided over the years ... and [they] have really looked out and looked after our needs," Miller said. "But needs are changing and and health care is changing and access to resources at the provincial level are changing.
"it was appropriate that the the province and the Ministry of Health, Ontario Health stepped in to continue to fund this nursing clinic on Pelee Island and ensure that we brought in local partners like Erie Shores HealthCare."
A petition attracted about 300 signatures in late September, and Miller at the time said the community had "a sense of urgency" with ferry transportation due to stop for the winter leaving plane the sole means of connection to the mainland.
Miller said she was pleased by the speedy response from local and provincial health care officials in getting this new service up and running, before the winter months.
The move comes amid the ongoing cyberattack at Erie Shores HealthCare and five other local hospitals.
On Monday the hospital summarized the known extent of the recent cyber breach — with a "limited set" of stolen data including 352 current and past employee social insurance numbers. No banking information was stolen, it said.
Pelee Island Mayor Cathy Miller. (Cathy Miller)
The hospital called the steps an "interim plan" as the island, Ontario Health and Ministry of Health build a "comprehensive care model" in the spring, according to the media release.
Miller said she's glad all parties moved quickly after there were some gaps in service.
"A lot of our residents were forced to make complicated decisions on getting back and forth to the mainland for just simple things like blood draws or vaccines. And that's a whole day's travel."
Ambulances are shown outside of the emergency department at Erie Shores HealthCare in Leamington, Ont. (Arms Bumanlag/ESHC)
Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Trevor Jones said he commends the hospital for "improving" health care service in the region.
"Pelee Island plays a vital role in our community, and this transition ensures that island residents will continue to have access to healthcare that meets their needs," said Jones.