The Chief Public Health Office has contracted a private company, Vision Research, to take over telephone monitoring for thousands of individuals who are in the midst of 14-day self-quarantine.
Health Minister James Aylward elaborated on the contract in response to questions from Green MLA Steve Howard.
Howard first questioned Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson about monitoring of cottagers who have returned to P.E.I. Howard said he had heard accounts of some cottagers or long-term stay residents who are already in P.E.I. There is currently a prohibition of travel to P.E.I., limiting most individuals who are not essential workers.
The province is planning to open up applications to long-term seasonal residents looking to travel to P.E.I. as of June 1.
Thompson said the cottagers were all individuals who arrived on P.E.I. before travel restrictions were put in place in early April.
Howard then asked about accounts he had heard of individuals in self-isolation who had not been called by Chief Public Health Office staff over the weekend. The CPHO has said staff will call individuals who are ordered to self-isolate on a daily basis to ensure they are following the requirements.
“Are we doing daily follow-ups with travellers arriving in P.E.I. and currently in self-isolation? What do those look like?" Howard asked.
"Everyone who is in self-isolation is being followed up with phone calls from CPHO. It is actually the minister of health's department – Dr. Heather Morrison's team that is following up with the phone calls," Thompson said.
Howard then asked about individuals in self-isolation who did not receive follow-up calls over the weekend.
Health Minister James Aylward responded to Howard’s questions, stating that, in fact, a third party had taken over phone call monitoring from CPHO.
"As government transitions back into somewhat normal operations, the staff that were making those isolation calls, they're required to come back into the public service," Aylward said.
Aylward said Vision Research was contracted in order to allow the transition.
"Admittedly, on the weekend, during a training period, there were a couple of people that missed their calls," Aylward said.
In an interview, Aylward said as of Thursday, a contract has not yet been signed with Vision Research, a P.E.I.-based company that does data collection, market research and political polling. He said transferring the service was a “very new initiative”. He said the company would be contracted by CPHO.
The telephone monitoring is the main method being used by the province to track whether or not travellers are following the public health requirement to self-isolate for 14 days.
In New Brunswick, an outbreak of cases has been traced to a health-care worker who did not self-isolate after travelling to Quebec.
"There will be a strict reporting process back as well. If there's any red flags reported with any of the individuals that they're calling that aren't answering the calls, it's going to be no different than it has been in the last couple of weeks," Aylward said.
"There's just a very, very small number, during the training process last weekend, that may not have received their calls."
In an interview, Howard said he had concerns about the use of a private company to conduct a key enforcement component of the province’s public health measures.
"It does raise some questions," Howard said.
"There's privacy concerns for Islanders, of course. And, apparently, effectiveness."
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