Dufferin County outlines steps toward recovery after pandemic

April 3, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By James Matthews

Dufferin County has developed a plan to ensure essential services are not impeded by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Incident Management Structure (IMS) updates are meant to ensure the county’s continuity of operations during the current State of Emergency brought on by the pandemic. The changes have been in the works for weeks, according to a report from Dufferin County Chief Administrative Officer Sonya Pritchard.

The report was discussed April 1 during a special electronic meeting broadcasted on the Internet. County council members and staff were in separate locations to accommodate social distancing required to inhibit propagation of the coronavirus contagion.

She said essential services during the COVID-19 pandemic are different than services that would be classified essential in a typical emergency.

The management structure changes focus on ensuring current and future staffing needs, supplies, equipment and infrastructure, and resources necessary for recovery from the pandemic.

Council also gave the go-ahead to carry out as much of this year’s capital projects as possible given how circumstances have changed by the pandemic. And Dufferin County is looking ahead and have chosen a recovery officer to develop a strategy for after the pandemic.

“The development of a plan for recovery from current conditions is critical,” said Ms. Pritchard. And, she said, it’s important for the County to be flexible in addressing needs as they arise throughout the ever-evolving pandemic.

County officials are working to ensure staff support during and following the pandemic.

Additional staffing needs are based on absenteeism due to COVID-19 illness or self-isolation, and due to increased demand for services and community support.

“There is an immediate need for additional staff in a number of areas including long-term care, emergency childcare, community liaison, communications, health and safety, facilities management, human resources, finance, procurement, and emergency management liaison,” said Ms. Pritchard.

“Information technology may also require support from outside the organization.”

And, she said, needs in areas of long-term care, community liaison, facilities management, and procurement are expected to intensify. While staff levels should normalize following the pandemic, the new IMS identifies additional staff required for economic development during the recovery. There’s expected to be a backlog in land use planning and building permit/inspection. Disinfecting county buildings and completing maintenance after the pandemic will also be a staffing concern.

Ms. Pritchard said Human Resources personnel and senior management are devising a COVID-19 Staffing and Redeployment Strategy. That will move staff from non-essential tasks and reassign them to the pandemic response. The strategy will prioritize immediate needs for long-term care, emergency childcare, and community support to the Food Share Hub and other community organizations as necessary.

“Should there be insufficient suitable redeployment opportunities for all staff, it will be necessary to proceed with temporary layoffs or unpaid leaves of absence,” Ms. Pritchard said.

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