Expanding and Strengthening the IPAC Community


22 Oct 2021

As National Infection Control Week comes to a close, this year’s theme of “Unite and Conquer”, that together we can accomplish anything, has never been truer. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of collaboration, innovation, action, and support within the Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) community, and has reinforced the importance of implementing and strengthening existing IPAC best-practices.

As the IPAC community has long known, it takes a team of dedicated professionals to ensure that, when applied correctly and consistently, evidence-based practices and procedures help reduce the risk of infection transmission, and help keep communities safe and healthy.

Expanding IPAC community

IPAC professionals come from many different backgrounds within care settings, including nursing, medicine, public health, microbiology, and epidemiology. For decades they have worked together to develop, implement, educate, and evaluate best-practices and procedures that impact the prevention of infections, and help safeguard the health of the public.

Working with new partners across myriad different settings, Ontario’s close knit community puts a spotlight on IPAC protocols not only during the pandemic, but as part of day-to-day activities to keep Ontarians safe.

Public Health Ontario on the front lines

Since the onset of the pandemic IPAC professionals from many different organizations across Ontario came together to ensure that IPAC best-practices were being implemented across a wide variety of care settings. The pandemic also provided the opportunity for IPAC specialists to share their expertise in settings outside those typically served, including schools, stores, and congregate settings such as correctional facilities and military bases.

Public Health Ontario (PHO) IPAC specialists were deployed to the front lines to help manage outbreaks and to perform proactive visits to ensure that the necessary preventative measures were being applied to ensure the health and safety of all staff, volunteers, residents, and visitors.

"It was one of the highlights of my professional career in IPAC to be surrounded by spectacular organizations and people all supporting the pandemic in the early days.  The opportunity to work alongside other government and non-government organizations including the Canadian Red Cross, Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Military, and to see the collaboration and friendships that were established is a testament to those who went “running towards the fire” in the early days of the pandemic.  I couldn’t have done this work alone.  The support and expertise of other PHO IPAC specialists was instrumental in supporting the fieldwork."

— Sam MacFarlane, Team Lead, IPAC East, Health Protection, Science and Public Health Portfolio, Public Health Ontario

“During the pandemic it’s more important than ever that we support and work closely with our partners and stakeholders. In February 2021 I was redeployed by request of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit to correctional facilities in Thunder Bay to complete IPAC assessments and support outbreak management. This is not a typical role for IPAC Specialists at PHO but COVID-19 outbreaks in correctional facilities presented unique challenges and partners were seeking additional support. I was able to offer my knowledge and expertise to the ongoing efforts to control outbreaks in this vulnerable population.”

— Ryan MacDougall, IPAC Program Specialist, Health Protection, Science and Public Health Portfolio, Public Health Ontario

“PHO is already well reputed both in Ontario and across Canada for providing evidence-based advice to a variety of stakeholders. I think one of the key roles we played was being present at different tables where IPAC issues were discussed. A lot was unknown about COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic and our presence helped interpret IPAC best-practices in many of these emerging complex situations. During the pandemic, IPAC colleagues at PHO expanded their traditional roles of supporting health care settings and provided consultations and guidance for other settings such as congregate settings, shelters, farms (migrant workers) and many others. It was both challenging and interesting to apply IPAC principles at these different settings.”

— Rohit Garg, Regional IPAC Specialist, Health Protection, Science and Public Health Portfolio, Public Health Ontario
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Updated 22 Oct 2021