HEATHER BOA News Now GODERICH – Until a dog is considered a “significant risk,” the animal control officer won’t find out from the health unit about a dog’s history of biting, Huron County’s medical officer of health told councillors this week.
Dr. Nancy Cameron told council the provincial Rabies Prevention and Control Protocol prevents public health officials from releasing personal information – like dog bites – unless it reduces significant risk of bodily harm to others. Its prime responsibility is to prevent humans from getting rabies as a result of a dog bite.
In order to protect people’s personal information “while ensuring that public health is protected, the medical officer of health has determined that in the case of animal exposures, an unprovoked and vicious biting incident, or two or more biting incidents by the same animal, constitutes a significant risk,” she wrote, in a report to council.
Coun. Jim Ginn said as a child he witnessed a dog rip apart a young girl’s face. He said the dog had a history of biting “and I’d hate to see that kind of thing happen again.”
In response, Cameron said, “If we have any cause to think it’s a vicious dog, we would be reporting it to the bylaw officer.”
Coun. Bernie MacLellan said while he understood the concerns of fellow councillors about protecting people from dog bites, he said it’s a provincial matter and council “does not have the right” to direct the medical officer of health in this issue.
“This whole conversation is a non-starter other than for information purposes only,” he said. “Thanks very much for your time.”
PROTOCOL FOR HARDARDOUS ADDRESSES
When paramedics are called out for emergencies, they’ll soon have a better idea if someone who may be potentially violent lives at that address.
Recently, paramedics sat outside a home for more than 15 minutes, waiting for police to arrive after learning from the 9-1-1 dispatcher that there was a violent person in the building, David Lew, the county’s chief of emergency services, told councillors recently. A complaint was made through a council member because the resident who made the 9-1-1 call saw the paramedics outside.
Under a new protocol being developed by the county’s emergency measures services, this address could be red flagged at the discretion of a paramedic who felt threatened and the London Central Ambulance Communication Centre would have the information on hand for future calls. If paramedics were called to the address again, police would automatically be dispatched at the same time.
The flagging system would also identify chemical or biological hazards.
A number of councillors wanted assurances that there was a process in place to remove flagging in the event a resident moved. Lew said the paperwork provides a timeframe for the flagging as long as a year, with review afterward.
Coun. Bernie MacLellan said he understands the logic behind preparing paperwork for buildings that have hazardous materials, however he said in the example of the call in which a violent person was in the building, paramedics had no advance notice.
“I believe there was a medication issue at the time that caused the irritation in the person,” he said. “If that’s the case, you certainly don’t want the residence red flagged under those circumstances.”
Lew agreed, saying it would be up to the paramedics to decide if there were future threat at that residence.
He said the new protocol would formalize a practice already in place.
PLUMBING INSPECTIONS DEBATED
Forty years of plumbing inspections by the county’s public health inspectors should continue, the medical officer of health told councillors.
She recommended against moving the service to lower-tier municipalities based in part on the knowledge base of the two full-time and one temporary part-time inspector and on the consistency the current system provides across the county.
She also said that if any of the nine municipalities decided to roll the service into their building departments, it would compromise cost efficiencies for the county. Two full-time inspectors are required in order to complete plumbing inspections within two days of notification, as required by provincial legislation.
Coun. Paul Gowing turned over the task of chairing the committee of the whole meeting to the county’s warden so that he could speak to the issue, as the councillor who made the original request. Gowing, who is the mayor of the Municipality of Morris-Turnberry, said he has a hard time understanding why inspections are done by the county when the authority is designated to local chief building officials. He would like municipalities to have the discretion to opt out of the county’s service.
“With our experience in the system, we believe we can do it much more efficiently and do a much better job,” he said. When it comes to new construction, he said the inspections can be done by one person.
Coun. Bernie MacLellan said staff at both the county and the municipal level are capable of doing the job but he prefers it stay at the council level.
“There is a consistency from the inspectors on covering the entire county. There’s also a consistency with the costing of it,” he said. He pointed to variations from municipality to municipality in the cost to issue a building permit, which means the public is not being treated equally.
“If the lower tier decides to take it back, it will kill it for everyone,” he said.
In Perth and Bruce counties, plumbing and sewage inspections are done through municipal building departments.
In a recorded vote of 10-4, councillors agreed with the medical officer of health’s recommendation that plumbing and sewage systems inspections remain at the county level.
Councillors Neil Rintoul, Joe Steffler, Paul Klopp, Bernie MacLellan, Jim Ginn, Deb Shewfelt, John Grace, Tyler Hessel, Bill Dowson and Ben Vandiepenbeek voted in favour. Councillors Neil Vincent, Paul Gowing, Jim Dietrich and Warden George Robertson voted against the motion. Councillors Dave Jewitt and Art Versteeg were absent.
The decision needs to be endorsed at the May 1 council meeting.