Ottawa's main COVID-19 testing facility at Brewer Arena has extended its hours from 8:30 am to 8 pm.
At Council during the outset of the COVID-19 public health crisis, I asked multiple questions of Dr. Etches of Ottawa Public Health concerning PPE availability and indicating the need to make COVID-19 testing accessible to vulnerable communities in Ward 13 and also to pursue race-based and socioeconomic health data.
Since May, I have been working with other elected officials in the Ottawa-Vanier federal riding, who include Mona Fortier, MP; Lucille Collard, MPP; Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury and Beacon Hill-Cyrville Councillor Tim Tierney, to advocate for COVID-19 testing in our area of the City. While we have had a measure of success with the announcement of the establishment of a “drive-through” testing centre at the Ottawa Baseball Stadium, we have continued to advocate for more mobile and walk-in COVID-19 testing for all adjacent communities, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
It is important to emphasize as elected officials in this instance, we can only advocate for testing, as testing is the primary responsibility of the local heath integrated network and testing itself is undertaken by area hospitals. The good news is we have some influence over the process as our LHIN has opted to work in cooperation with City staff and Ottawa Public Health on testing locations.
In light of this, I have advocated for more mobile and “walk-in” locations. I supported ACORN members from Ottawa-Vanier, who as impressive community advocates worked with partners from the Ottawa Hospital, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, Ottawa Innercity Health, CHEO and the Paramedic Service to organize the city’s first mobile testing clinic, which served both Overbrook and Vanier residents on July 11 in Ogilvie North Park. On the day of the event, 119 adults and children were able to get tested at four different stations out of a medical van, paramedic bus and testing booth. The Mission supplied everyone with hot food and ACORN distributed free masks and hand sanitizer supplied by the Ottawa Hospital.
In terms of more mobile locations, not unlike the successful July 11 pilot, I have asked for more locations across the Ward to augment the Stadium location. The LHIN has indicated that they are aware of mobile testing concerns from community members and elected officials and are examining options, especially locating mobile testing options specifically in postal code locations where there are indications of high infection prevalence correlated to low testing rates. I expect the hospital will announce its mobile testing initiatives soon.
In terms of advocating for “walk-in” locations, I recently co-signed a letter sent to the Ottawa Hospital with Somerset Councillor Catherine McKenney; Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard; Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper and Rideau-Vanier Councillor Mathieu Fleury advocating for developing a walk-in testing centre within the urban core that would accommodate people traveling by active transportation. It is our understanding that downtown locations are being considered and mobile testing facilities will soon be unveiled and put into service.
Also just a note that at Council last week, I asked whether public health officials are considering allowing testing at pharmacies in Ontario. Such an approach would lower wait times and improve accessibility.
As part of my role as an elected official, I will continue to advocate for more testing options and capacity of all residents, especially in light of anecdotal evidence that demonstrates a connection between higher rates of confirmed infections and the prevalence of low-income residents in Ward 13.