CK MOH has left the building

Dr. David Colby, CK Medical Officer of Health. Oct 18, 2017. (Photo by Paul Pedro)

Chatham-Kent’s medical officer of health is no longer on the job.

Dr. David Colby told CK News Today his last day was last Friday because he could not carry his vacation over into 2023, so he set his retirement date for December 31, 2022. Colby is currently on vacation until the end of the year when his retirement officially kicks in.

Colby said he accumulated the holidays because he couldn’t take them when the pandemic was raging and carried lots of vacation time into 2020. He hopes the public doesn’t misinterpret the departure as taking advantage of the situation, but rather as time earned.

Last week, the Chatham-Kent Board of Health approved Lambton County Medical Officer of Health Dr. Sudit Ranade to cover for Dr. Colby while he’s on vacation. The health unit has also started recruiting a permanent medical officer of health.

General Manager of Community Human Services and CEO of Chatham-Kent Public Health April Rietdyk said Dr. Colby is currently on some well-deserved vacation.

“He provided ongoing critical coverage during the pandemic and did Chatham-Kent a tremendous favour by being willing to put off his vacation until now,” said Rietdyk. “MOHs routinely cover for each other during any and all absences; I know Dr. Ranade well and Chatham-Kent is in good hands.”

The weekly media updates regarding COVID-19 set up by the municipality since the beginning of the pandemic have also come to an end. The last scheduled media conference call was on Thursday.

Mayor Darrin Canniff said the sessions are being suspended for a variety of reasons, including Dr. Colby not being around.

“As it stands right now with Dr. Colby retiring, that was kind of the main reason and he’s not here. And given that COVID is hopefully in the rear-view mirror, for the most part, that was the main reason we put this on,” said the mayor.

Jim Blake, the communications officer for the municipality, said the lack of availability of some media call panelists, such as Dr. Colby, who have answered pandemic questions for two years is a key reason for the conference calls being put on hold.

“When we’re down a few folks to have them commit to this and not know exactly who we would need each week that’s part of the issue. So, lacking someone who can speak to a lot of it, it makes it a little bit more difficult,” said Blake.

Canniff said the weekly media calls will return to keep the community informed if COVID-19 becomes a problem again.

Meantime, COVID-19 reporting is being scaled back in Chatham-Kent beginning next week.

The public health unit said the COVID-19 Surveillance Report will be updated once per week on Wednesdays by 11:00 a.m. instead of three times weekly.

The Monday and Friday updates about cases and outbreaks will be dropped.

“The Chatham-Kent COVID-19 Surveillance Report will shift to capturing the most recent surveillance week when reporting on COVID cases and outbreaks. This means that every Wednesday, CK Public Health will be reporting all COVID-19 data from the most recent Sunday to Saturday period, and reflecting change since the previous surveillance week,” said Chatham-Kent Public Health.

Health unit officials said even though COVID-19 activity continues to increase, levels should start to decrease in the coming weeks.

“Please note that lab-confirmed cases are still an underestimate of the true level of infection in Chatham-Kent, and monitoring trends over time across all sources of surveillance data continues to be an important focus through this wave,” public health officials said.