Province’s lack of direction on school reopening shocks pediatricians

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“We know how restaurants will open, how golf courses and marinas will open, but we have no idea how schools will open.”

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Elizabeth Payne Dr. Andrzej Rochowski Photo by Ashley Fraser / Postmedia

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Dr. Andrzej Rochowski of Ottawa says he was stunned to see the province publish a pandemic reopening plan last week with no mention of schools.

“We know how restaurants will open, how golf courses and marinas will open, but we have no idea how schools will open.”

The county reopening announcement came after the top pediatric organizations in the county joined in to call on the county to reopen schools immediately, saying getting students back to school with the correct security measures.

“The impact of school closures and the resulting isolation on the health and well-being of children and young people is impossible to ignore,” the letter said. It was signed by CHEO and SickKids hospitals, as well as organizations representing every pediatrician and pediatric organization in the county.

Rochowski, who is a member of the Ottawa Community Pediatricians Network, said his members are alarmed by signs of poor mental health they saw in children and young people during the pandemic. The situation worsens when schools are closed, Rochowski and others said.

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Earlier, members of the organization said they understood the decision to close schools during the province’s third wave of COVID-19, but feared the decision would be difficult for children and young people. She and others have said reopening schools should be the county’s first priority.

The lack of a plan to reopen schools has shocked pediatricians, Rochowski said.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “The question we have is, ‘Where does this government have priority when it comes to schools?’ “

Children’s health organizations, including CHEO, are bracing for the exacerbation of the mental health crisis affecting children and young people. Community pediatricians are seeing more cases of eating disorders and other mental health problems than ever.

Rochowski said pediatricians who work with older patients see high rates of bulimia and depression. Teachers he spoke to fear high dropout rates.

He said that even if only for the last weeks of school, the reopening in June will make a difference to the well-being of children.

“It makes them reconnect with their friends, it creates a routine in the day and it anchors the day.”

Importantly, he said, the government must state that the well-being of children is a priority.

“I would like the government to address the issue of opening schools in the same way as opening up the economy. If we have clear parameters for restaurant and gym reopening, we must have clear parameters for school reopening. “

Rochowski said the Ontario government should indicate whether it is considering reopening schools on a regional basis, something that both Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and medical health officer Dr. Vera Etches.

“The situation in Peel is different from Renfrew or Ottawa.”

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