Coronavirus: Ottawa Public Health contact tracers subject to ‘abusive behaviour’

Ottawa Public Health leaders are asking people to treat coronavirus contact tracers with more respect following reports that some staff are being yelled at and hung up on while trying to follow up with high-risk contacts of COVID-19 cases.

Keith Egli, chair of the Ottawa Board of Health, told reporters Tuesday that members of OPH’s case and contact management team have recently experienced “resistance” and “abusive behaviour” from the people they follow up with over the course of their duties.

OPH staff are tasked with calling people who test positive for the coronavirus as well as people who are high-risk contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

Read more: What’s a COVID-19 close contact?

Egli said staff have been hung up on, yelled at and told by contacts that they will “go to the media” if they aren’t left alone.

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Egli said he understands that getting a call from a contact tracer could make a person feel upset and on edge, but called for Ottawa residents to treat OPH staff with civility.

“All we’re asking is, recognize people have a tough job to do,” he said.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, added later in the press conference that the people behaving poorly towards contact tracers are a “small minority” of cases.

But she stressed the important role contact tracers play in minimizing the spread of the virus through the community and asked residents to “show them kindness” should they receive a call.

“Our case managers and contact tracers are working tirelessly… to keep schools open and businesses open,” she said.

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