On Monday Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, was in effect fired. Thus our new premier, Danielle Smith, kept a campaign promise. We get Danielle Smith, a conspiracy-spouting separatist; we lose Deena Hinshaw, a highly qualified medical professional. What is Alberta coming to.

Hinshaw was the only reasonably reliable voice we heard during the pandemic. In the early days she appeared almost daily with calm updates and best practices.

Her reputation tumbled somewhat when she submitted to her political masters in the summer of 2021. A number of health restrictions were cancelled before any other province while Premier Kenney promised the “best summer ever.” The result was a resurgence of Covid that came within days of cratering the health system, forcing Kenney and Hinshaw to apologize, bring back restrictions and introduce vaccine passports.

Ironically, the lax approach was just what Premier Smith would have approved of. Nonetheless, Hinshaw has now doubly payed the price. Perhaps she should have imposed her full powers rather than simply offering advice to politicians too many of whom never had the wit to use.

Dealing with the UCP must have been hell, half the caucus recognizing we had a serious problem on our hands, the other half demanding the best summer ever.

She has, in any case, been supported by her colleagues. Dr. James Talbot, chief medical officer of health from 2012 to 2015, commented, “Dr. Hinshaw performed admirably in the position and it was a very difficult job to do. I think the province was lucky to have her in that one-in-100-year threat that we faced that tragically ended up killing 5,000 Albertans, but could have killed far more, if it hadn’t been for her leadership.”

She isn’t the only well-established and highly respected health leader we have lost this year. In April, Dr. Verna Yiu, who often appeared alongside Hinshaw at news conferences, was fired as president and CEO of Alberta Health Services.

Dr. Talbot was scathing in his remarks regarding that dismissal: “Dr Yiu is one of the finest physician administrators in Canada .… For a government to have the captain of a ship that brought it safely into port, through a one in a hundred year storm, walk the plank is despicable. … We need a government that stops politically interfering with our health care system.”

The political interference continues. One wonders if Dr. Hinbsaw’s firing had something to do wth the fact she was appointed by the NDP.

In any case, Dr. Yiu is now interim provost and vice-president academic at the University of Alberta, and I expect Dr. Hinshaw will find a similarly rewarding position.

At least her replacement isn’t a quack as many feared given Smith’s proclivities. She will be replaced in the interim by Dr. Mark Joffe, an Alberta Health Services vice-president who has a solid background in infectious diseases.

Cynics have suggested these moves are a political takeover of the quasi-independent health-care system. As to what all this portends for Alberta, I’ll leave the last word to Dr. Talbot,”They’ve been dismissed arbitrarily, and they’ve been criticized unfairly. Add that to a political leadership that refuses to follow science, it makes it a very difficult job to make attractive.”

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