Guelph General Prez Walker Now the COVID Lead for the Region

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and that’s why an important position has been filled at the top of the regional COVID response, the hospital lead. The position was vacated earlier this month, but it’s now been filled by none other than the Guelph General Hospital’s CEO Marianne Walker, who notes hospitals are still being challenged by both the number of patients with COVID, and the number of staff members who are also sick.

“Hospitals are still being challenged by both the number of COVID patients and high number of staff off either with COVID or suspected COVID,” Walker said in a statement. “We know that masks help protect against COVID along with other preventable measures such as vaccination. We are committed to follow the science and continue masking and vaccination mandates.”

“Vaccinations and masking continue to be important in reducing the risk of getting COVID and possibly having to come to hospital,” she added.

Walker is taking over the position of hospital lead from Lee Fairclough, the president of St. Mary’s General Hospital who stepped away from her post at the beginning of April so that she can run for the Ontario Liberals as a candidate in the riding of Etobicoke Lakeshore. “I’d like to express my appreciation for the great work Lee did in helping keep the community well informed about the pandemic’s impact on local hospitals,” said Walker.

Of course, Walker herself announced her intention to retire earlier this year back in February. She will remain in her current position until a new CEO and president is hired by the Hospital’s Board of Directors, the process for which is still ongoing.

The changing of the guard as regional lead though comes at a difficult time both inside and outside the hospital. Walker’s report to the Hospital’s Board of Directors this month stated that there are between 40 and 53 staff members on average who are out with “COVID related illness.” At the same time, the Hospital is reporting that they’re seeing an average of 10-12 new COVID patients per day, though few of them are taking up bed space in the ICU.

In the general community, there are current 638 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, while the long-term trends have gone up in the last few days with the 7-day moving rate now sitting at 150.3 per 100,000 and a test positivity rate at 25 per cent. In Waterloo Region, there are 962 confirmed active cases, and the 7-day moving rate is 15.8 per 100,000.

“As we continue to work together as a system to respond and recover from the COVID-
19 pandemic, the importance of good communication cannot be overstated,” said Susan deRyk, Chief Regional Officer of Ontario Health West in a statement about Walker’s appointment. “I am confident that Marianne will ensure that information flows seamlessly across partners, and continue to build on the timely and easy to understand communications that Lee could be counted on to share previously.”

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