We are writing to request your urgent help.

Niagara has received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. It is a day we have been waiting for since the first vaccines were administered in Ontario on December 14, 2020. Over the past month, COVID spread in Niagara has become increasingly serious and we need your help to advocate for Niagara’s fair share of vaccines.

As physicians and healthcare workers on the frontlines of this near year-long battle with the pandemic, we want to recognize all the hard work done by our colleagues to protect the health and safety of our community and the numerous lives they have saved under the most difficult of circumstances. Today, we are caring for 62 COVID-positive patients in hospital, with 12 patients in Intensive Care. During the first week of the New Year, we cared for as many as 93 patients in a single day at the hospital. Sadly, 90 patients being treated for COVID have died, with 50 of those deaths taking place since the onset of the second wave in the fall of 2020.

Additionally, Niagara Health has been called upon to manage and protect the residents of two long-term care homes. Our teams risked their own health and well-being to enter these homes and provide the life-saving support to residents. In particular, one of the homes we are supporting is experiencing one of the most significant outbreaks anywhere in Ontario, with 96 per cent of the home’s 122 residents testing positive for the virus. Thirty residents have died and 121 staff were infected.

In short, the virus is heavily impacting our region. Our teams are burned out; people are worried for their loved ones and they need hope. Hope that the vaccine offers. While we are pleased to receive the initial shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, the reality is that it’s not enough. It’s not enough to vaccinate our vulnerable population and not enough to guarantee continuous operation of your hospital system. This is compounded by the inexplicable diversion of the Moderna vaccine, which would have gone to the most vulnerable population that we care for in Niagara.

It has been particularly disheartening for us in Niagara to see that we are not being treated equitably with other areas in the province. There are 32 long-term care homes in Niagara and not one healthcare worker, not one resident received the vaccine prior to today. In contrast, Windsor has 19 long-term care homes and has already vaccinated all of them. The same is true for York Region’s 28 homes. This frustration is multiplied by regular reports of individuals, who are not eligible under the government’s own criteria, being vaccinated against COVID prior to those who desperately need it in Niagara. Shockingly, some people in other jurisdictions have received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine before a single dose made its way into our community. Our older adults and healthcare workers deserve better.

The virus is taking its toll on staff and physicians at the hospital. More than 220 of our teammates have tested positive for COVID and nearly 200 others are having to isolate for potential exposure. While we appreciate that the public sometimes refers to healthcare workers as heroes, we are not superhuman. With the spread of infection, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain services in the hospital and continue to save lives. We are not far from our system being overwhelmed.  The hospital system is currently dealing with 8 units on outbreak, including one of our COVID units, one of our ICU’s and two of our emergency departments.

Along with our colleagues, we have provided care for patients at their worst moments of suffering and vulnerability. We are committed and dedicated to doing everything we can to care for our community. The government can help us by directing additional vaccines to Niagara. By vaccinating healthcare workers, you are protecting services in the hospital and ensuring that we are able to continue providing care to those who most need it.

In closing, we ask our community and leaders to support this urgent call for action. Join us in requiring the Ontario Government allocate more Pfizer vaccines to Niagara and restore the allocation of the Moderna vaccine that was unfairly taken away. We can administer vaccines as quickly as they are provided. Volunteers are lining up to support this initiative. All we need are vaccines.

We ask that you share our message on social media, encourage your friends to write to our Members of Provincial Parliament and request that they take our message to the highest levels of government.

Niagara deserves to be treated equitably and we need additional vaccines as soon as possible.

Sincere thanks,

The Medical Advisory Committee (MAC) which is comprised of the Chief of Staff and the Chiefs of Services in Niagara and the Medical Staff Association Executives that represents the views and interests of all credentialed physicians at Niagara Health;

Dr. Johan Viljoen, Chief of Staff and EVP Medical

Dr. Don DuVall, Chief of Anesthesia

Dr. Julian Dobranowski, Chief of Diagnostic Imaging

Dr. Rafi Setrak, Chief of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Lorraine Jensen, Chief of Medicine

Dr. Maxine Lewis, Chief of Mental Health and Addictions

Dr. Karen MacMillan, Interim Head of Service, Obstetrics

Dr. Olufemi Olufowobi, Interim Head of Service, Gynaecology

Dr. Michael Levesque, Chief of Oncology

Dr. Madan Roy, Chief of Paediatrics

Dr. Satish Chawla, Chief of Laboratory Medicine

Dr. Ian Brown, Chief of Surgery

Dr. Maynard Luterman, President, Medical Staff Association

Dr. Alison MacTavish, Vice President, Medical Staff Association

Dr. Adnan Hameed, Treasurer, Medical Staff Association