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Renfrew County clinics prep in anticipation of incoming large COVID-19 vaccine shipment; Pembroke hospital hiring more staff

“We think we can easily do two to three times what we’re doing now,” Dr. Robert Cushman told CityNews Ottawa.
COVID vaccine
COVID-19 vaccine

Renfrew County is getting ready to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations as the health unit expects a large shipment of doses in the coming days, and that includes hiring more bodies and taking on more volunteers.

According to the Renfrew County medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Cushman, in order to ramp up vaccinations, they’ll need more volunteers. And as far as Pembroke Regional Hospital goes, they're looking to hire eight full-time summer university students to help with support in the clinical, as well as a few more clinical staff, including those who are able to vaccinate.

"When we started vaccinations, we knew that we would start small and slow and continue to ramp up," Sabine Mersmann, senior vice president of clinical support services at Pembroke Regional Hospital told CityNews Ottawa. "We said right from the beginning that we needed to find a way to solidify the staff, the HR positions at our vaccination clinics, and right now we have over 200 volunteers that fulfil various roles."

In order for the region to get past the pandemic, Mersmann said it's essential that things get going at a faster rate to catch up.

"This is absolutely fantastic news for us, that we are going to get double the amount of doses starting in a couple of weeks by mid-May," Mersmann. "Maybe we have been getting a little less, but we have been doing a tremendous job in getting those vaccines into people's arms as quickly as possible. We have no wait times and the doses are not sitting in fridges."

This also means making sure Renfrew County clinics are ready to go with all the resources they need as more vaccines come in.

“We think we can easily do two to three times what we’re doing now,” Cushman told CityNews Ottawa. “It’s just the real issue is how much stress is there on the rest of the system, the hospitals and primary care, and are we going to have to ramp it up much beyond that?”

Currently, Cushman says, the COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Renfrew County operate, on average, once a week.

“One of the problems is the Moderna and the Pfizer, these vaccines don’t have a long shelf life out of the fridge — or even out of the freezer,” he explained. “One of the problems we’re seeing is that people are so impatient, they’re registering for multiple sites, so we’re now seeing cancellations and that could be a problem going down the line.”

However, Cushman says he’d much rather be facing these problems rather than ones related to supply shortages.

The issues they will likely encounter as the rollout ramps up will revolve around sticking to the provincial timetable, given that the county is already behind in the rollout — overbooking in its clinics and staff.

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