Light up the sky on Doctor Day

Ken Kellar

A local councillor is encouraging the public to light up the sky this Friday to honour local doctors as they continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Counc. Rick Wiedenhoeft provided an update from two committees he sits on, the Doctor Recruitment and Retention Committee, as well as the Citizen of the Year committee. Of note, he said, is an opportunity coming up this week for the public to show their appreciation for the work doctors in town, and across Ontario, are doing each and every day.

“Doctors’ Day is Friday, May 1,” Counc. Wiedenhoeft said.

“To celebrate everything they do, especially this year during the COVID-19 crisis, please go to, and help shine a light at 9:00 p.m. this Friday.”

Wiedenhoeft explained that the public is encouraged to use either a flashlight or the light on their phones, to go outside at 9 p.m. on Friday and then shine their lights into the sky to show their support for Ontario’s doctors. The Doctor’s Day website also encourages those participating to post to their social media channels about why they’re shining a light for doctors by using #DoctorsDay and #ShineALightForThem.

The councillor noted that even in the face of COVID-19, the town’s recruitment and retention team is working together with doctors both in the district and beyond to try and make sure quality of care remains consistent.

“I have been in contact with Todd Hamilton, our recruiter, and Henry Gauthier, Riverside CAO, to bring everyone up to date on the doctor situation and the preparedness of our hospital,” Wiedenhoeft said.

“As you know… we are short some five GPs and two GP anesthetists. To help offset this need we bring in locums from the region, the province or country-wide who are qualified physicians who fill in for this shortfall.”

Wiedenhoeft noted that due to the fact that Bearskin Airlines is currently not operating in Fort Frances, two of the locums are making trips in from Thunder Bay in order to care for patients in town, in addition to other locums and retired doctors who are willing to work.

“One anesthetist drives in from Steinbach, while Dr. Nugent picked up the vacant weeks of anesthesia covering off locums who have travel problems,” he explained.

“With the hard work of our doctors and locums, we are managing to keep everything going and our heads above water.”

Wiedenhoeft also highlighted that La Verendrye General Hospital has been executing a preparedness plan during the crisis, which has led to some changes in operations, which he said includes, but is not limited to:

  • increased high-touch cleaning across all sites
  • establish alternate COVID-19 wards
  • conducting telephone based counselling services
  • screening at all entrances for staff on a daily basis
  • infection control measures at every entrance
  • effective communication network giving daily updates on COVID-19
  • travel restrictions on all employees
  • designated nursing staff to areas to prevent cross-contamination

As well, the supply team has “optimized the PPE stock levels with contingency strategies in place to meet any potential shortfalls.”

Wiedenhoeft’s other update was a reminder to the public that even during these difficult and uncertain times, the Citizen of the Year Committee is still planning on choosing a recipient for the award in the fall, and he believes that self-isolation measures have left people with a good opportunity to apply on behalf of a deserving volunteer or member of the public.

“As councillor Behan reported several weeks ago, we changed the format to allow nominations at any time during the year,” Wiedenhoeft said.

“That said, this may be an excellent time to nominate someone who not only has volunteered in the past, but has continued to go above and beyond helping others during this crisis. Just a reminder, please submit a thorough and comprehensive background for your nominee. Completed forms must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2020. That means that there’s lots of time, but why not do it now while you have the spare time?”

Nomination forms can be picked up from the Clerk or Deputy Clerk at the Civic Centre, or requested by mail, email or fax.