Grab an oar for Health Units

Dear editor,

An open letter to Ministers Christine Elliott and Greg Rickford,

My wife Colleen and I would like to offer our strongest commendation and support for Elaine Fischer and the team at the NW Health Unit here in Fort Frances.

We have had the privilege of working alongside them since we started volunteering at the vaccination clinic at St. Francis School in early April.

A dozen or more health care professionals from the NW Health Unit, paramedics, a retired doctor (who would prefer to be on his sail boat), and volunteers run clinics that are highly organized and efficient.

They sit for long hours without complaint at makeshift workstations that are not ergonomically sound while they register people and put needles in arms.

I was still receiving text messages at 8:24 PM this past Friday night as Elaine was working to arrange for volunteers for upcoming clinics.

From what we have read in the media, the plan which was on the table before the pandemic hit, consolidates the number of public health units in the province from 35 to 10, leaving just two for all of northern Ontario.

We neither seek nor want or will accept any thanks or recognition for volunteering. We are just two of dozens of volunteers. Volunteering is the price we all pay for living in a great community.

What we do seek is recognition by your government that in small communities these health units are invaluable infrastructure. As this virus continues to mutate, we will no doubt all be lining up for annual Covid 19 booster vaccinations along with flu vaccinations.

If the province closes NW Health Units who will run vaccination clinics is small towns in Ontario?

Minister Elliott, you and your team plan our pandemic response. You do not put needles in arms. The people who work at the Health Units in Ontario do this invaluable work. Ontario’s public health care workers deserve the thanks and recognition from everyone who calls Ontario home. They also deserve to know that you are not going to fire them (consolidate sounds far more benign but the result is the same).

Minister Rickford, you were a health care professional. Before we again vote for you and put your sign in our front yard, we want to know whether you support saving Health Units especially in Ontario communities that are under served medically?

We moved home from Windsor in 2010. Since then, we have had four different family doctors. We lost our fourth doctor in November of 2020 and there are currently no roster spots available. Closing Health Units in communities that are already under served is counterintuitive.

For over 400 days restrictions due to the current pandemic have cancelled recreational activities for people of all ages. We are all going to have to work together to get people to turn off their electronics and provide outdoor spaces and recreational opportunities especially for developing children who have been sedentary for such an extended period. The Northwest Health Unit will play a vital role in this effort. Elaine and her team also operate the Fort Frances Community Garden and Kids Garden program (healthy eating, preventative health care) which we support with a charitable donation and we also rent a plot.

Medicating children with more Ritalin, or Adderall and sedating their parents with more liquor from the LCBO or Cannabis products from the stores licensed by the Province is not the answer. Exercise programs and preventative health care strategies delivered by Health Units are the answer.

If the people of the Rainy River District value the services of the Northwestern Health Unit and want to save it, then grab and oar and row! Email Premier Ford (, Health Minister Christine Elliott (christine.elliott@pc.ola. org) and our M.P.P. Greg Rickford ( Otherwise, your silence is acquiescence and your failure to push back against government cuts to vital services will make you complicit when those services are lost.

Scott and Colleen Fawcett