Alberta has a new chief medical officer of health as of Monday afternoon, but Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s replacement as the province’s leading medical expert the right fit for the job?
Dr. Mark Joffe, an infectious disease specialist and high-level Alberta Health Services official, was appointed interim medical chief of health for Alberta by Premier Danielle Smith on Monday. While Joffe has experience dealing with the pandemic and with infectious diseases, he does not have experience or training in public health — something one would expect from an official at the CMOH level, Dr. James Talbot, an adjunct professor at the University of Alberta said. and former Chief Medical Officer of Health.
Smith has made it very clear that she is not happy with the way Hinshaw, who has held the CMOH post since January 2019, has handled the pandemic. And she continues to reinforce messages that she will not reinstate mask mandates or encourage vaccinations to help fight infectious diseases like the flu and COVID-19, despite scientific evidence.
Joffe to replace Hinshaw as Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, the provincial government says
Joffe to replace Hinshaw as Alberta’s chief medical officer of health: provincial government
The province is required to have a CMOH under the provincial health act, Talbot explained. The clock started ticking as soon as it was announced that Hinshaw would no longer hold the position. And now there are concerns that Joffe is only an interim officer, meaning he is unlikely to stay in the role for long.
“I assume that’s what the fact that it’s an interim position means – that they’re trying to buy time to do a more thorough search,” says Talbot, who believes the province will find it difficult to fill the position. to fill due to public pressure from the job and “if they’re looking for someone willing to advance the beliefs we’ve heard so far, they’re looking for someone who doesn’t understand the science.”
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“Dr. Joffe is a scientist. He does know the importance of science and he goes to work for people who don’t seem to understand it.”
The CMOH is supposed to make all public health orders, so even as interim officer, Joffe should have the independence to make public health decisions, said Lorian Hardcastle, associate professor of public health at the University of Calgary.
“However, we have heard from Premier Smith that changes are coming which are likely to limit the independence of that individual. The prime minister appears determined to centralize public health decision-making in her cabinet, and not have schools or the new chief medical officer of health making decisions that will do things like bring back masking.”
This message from the Prime Minister about viral infections is worrying, Hardcastle said.
“I think her messages around an immune deficiency because she has not been exposed to germs over the last few years are problematic messages and are not evidence-based. And I think her blaming AHS for (hospital) capacity issues is also problematic,” Hardcastle said.
Smith reiterates no mask mandate – says access to medicine, ER’s priority for dealing with flu, RSV
At a press conference Monday, Smith addressed the issue of overcrowded emergency rooms, especially pediatrics, due to higher than normal volumes of respiratory infections in children. She said what the province needs is better access to medication that will reduce fever, specifically Tylenol for children, which has been in short supply in Canada. She said she would allow her medical advisory team to address the rest of the issues that cause thousands of students to stay home from school and parents to spend up to 16 hours on emergency room waiting lists with their sick children.
“From a political perspective, she is not in a position to bring back strict public health restrictions. I think it will be difficult for her politically in the run up to an election,” Hardcastle said. “But there’s no reason she can’t have stronger messages where she encourages people to mask, she encourages people to get vaccinated, and we really don’t see that message from her. Instead, we see her criticizing masks that are not based on evidence.”
Now officials, experts and parents are calling on Joffe, as a medical expert, to address the public and give his recommendations on how the province moves forward with the mounting health care crisis.
– with files from Kim Smith, Global News
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