By Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative
Lucinda Allaer has been trying to get her 85-year-old mom to visit her dad in a Wallaceburg long-term care home, but the lack of assessment centres in Chatham-Kent’s peripheral communities poses a problem.
Allaer lives in Sarnia while her mom resides in Wallaceburg and her 88-year-old dad is living in Fairfield Park long-term care facility.
“I don’t understand why we don’t set up assessment centres in the communities that have long-term care homes,” she said.
Allaer’s mom is suffering from health issues that prevent her from being able to sit in a car for long periods of time, even if Allaer was the one driving her mom to the clinic in Chatham.
The mother is part of the group of residents who are eligible to get vaccinated in Phase 1 of the rollout plan. Currently the John D. Bradley Centre vaccination site is accepting appointments for residents aged 80 and over.
However, current testing regulations remain in place even for individuals who have been partially or entirely vaccinated, so Allaer’s mom would still need a weekly assessment proving that she tested negative.
Lori Marshall, CEO and president of the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, said numbers at the assessment centre, which has previously seen an upward of 250 people a day, are going down, which could open up the door to expanding testing in other locations.
“And it’s our hope that as the vaccine rolls out more and more that the assessment centre needs will continue to decrease and we’ll be able to use a different model going forward,” she said.
Marshall said CKHA will “certainly” entertain the concept of mobile testing centres again when the warmer months roll around.
In June, CKHA partnered with Chatham-Kent EMS and CK Public Health to support a three-day drive-thru testing initiative in Wallaceburg. More than 400 people took advantage of the nearby assessment centre. In total, drive-thru assessment centres throughout all of Chatham-Kent’s peripheral communities saw almost 1,300 individuals tested.
However, Allaer said a mobile pop-up clinic won’t do much to help her cause.
“My mom wanted to be an essential caregiver but she can’t go unless she was tested every week. It’s not fair,” Allaer said.
A full-time assessment centre may not be a possibility due to the financial resources it would require according to Marshall.
“There’s a specific funding model now for assessment centres and it would require individuals to do the swabbing and registration staff,” she said. “It’s a full clinic model that gets created so the way we have it now is set up to do it most efficiently.”
Allaer is concerned that she is not the only one with this problem and that there are many individuals who cannot afford the weekly bus fare or persons with disabilities are being left out.
Marshall said there is also the matter of funding to take into consideration.
“It is very frustrating not being able to get a test when you want because of any health or financial issues you may have,” she said.
Having long-term care homes test essential caregivers every week is another solution Allaer would like to see.