By Jennifer Reid, Public Health Officer
As a Public Health Officer (PHO) with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), I am responsible for protecting the health of the environment and people of Saskatchewan by educating and consulting with the facilities we routinely inspect and enforcing the regulations under The Public Health Act, 1994.
Under normal circumstances, my job is often complex and challenging; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the demands of being a PHO to an entirely new level. In addition to my routine duties, I’m also responsible for enforcing the Public Health Orders and safety measures implemented by Dr. Shahab and the Government of Saskatchewan.
When the pandemic first began, I couldn’t have foreseen what my job would be like as the months went on and COVID-19 cases increased across the province. Initially, many of the emails and calls I received involved assisting businesses and the public navigating the various Orders and safety measures. Soon after,
calls and emails quickly changed to responding to a high volume of ongoing complaints. There are new hardships every day, and I’m often dealing with individuals refusing to wear masks, businesses violating public health orders, positive cases and close contacts refusing to self-isolate, and tracking down positive cases our public health nursing teams are unable to contact. These individuals are often angry and verbally abusive, and for these reasons,
the pandemic’s impact on my job as a PHO is taking a toll.
I’m not with my family as often, and when I come home, I often feel stressed, frustrated, and exhausted. Since the spring, my fellow PHOs and I have been working a rotating 24/7 on-call schedule to address continual non-compliance reports, and many PHOs are having to visit businesses, such as bars and restaurants, late at night on weekends. As a result,
I often wish that those who think the safety measures are infringing on their freedoms or that COVID-19 isn’t “real” could see everyone’s tireless efforts trying to prevent the transmission of this life-threatening virus.
For me, the challenges I face daily as a PHO are a powerful reminder that
we must continue to work together to overcome this pandemic and the impact that it’s having on all of us.
We all play a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. The work that everyone at the SHA does is critical to protecting our community and the health services we should never take for granted.
We should all feel very proud of the role we play in our ongoing commitment to health and safety.