Ag workers’ testing ramped up in Essex County

A group of Erie Shores Healthcare employees and Essex-Windsor EMS paramedics gather for a briefing before testing agri-food workers for COVID-19, June 2, 2020. Photo submitted by Kristin Kennedy/ESHC.

A local hospital is working to ensure that migrant workers aren’t slipping through the cracks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erie Shores Healthcare (ESHC) has teamed up with Essex-Windsor EMS to provide focused testing on employees of the area’s thriving agri-food business, a segment of the population that has seen increased outbreaks of the virus in recent weeks.

Groups of ESHC nurses visit the homes of employees with paramedics to provide COVID-19 testing and assessment, and if necessary, bring patients into the hospital for further screening and treatment.

Kristin Kennedy, ESHC’s vice-president of patient services and chief nursing executive, told that testing the estimated 8,000 temporary foreign workers in the Leamington area is impractical, so the testing groups have a focused approach.

“Right now, the hospital and Essex-Windsor EMS are focusing on any migrant workers that are in isolation or in quarantine, so they have suspected or confirmed COVID,” said Kennedy.

The increased health assessments come after the death of a seemingly healthy temporary foreign worker in his 30s this past weekend, the youngest person in Windsor-Essex confirmed to have died from coronavirus. Agri-food businesses in Chatham-Kent and Norfolk County have reported major outbreaks in recent weeks among migrant workers.

Kennedy said the hospital is working hard to make sure that this vulnerable group receives the care and resources needed to slow the spread of the virus, and even stop it.

“We are trying to emphasize giving them additional outreach resources as we go in right now to the homes and see if there’s any gaps or anyone we can leverage out into the community to help support them as well,” said Kennedy.

Since the assessment initiative began earlier this week, Kennedy said the nurse and paramedic teams have screened at least 80 migrant workers.