Photo Credit: BC Gov News/ Flickr

Another Take On Dr. Henry

BC's Health Officer shouldn't resign, but she needs to up her game

She needs to use her powers to mandate better masks, testing, contact tracing and ventilation

No doubt it’s a difficult time to be the Provincial Health Officer. So we need to give credit to Dr. Bonnie Henry for stepping up and sticking with what has to be–at least now–among the most stressful jobs on the planet.

Imagine for a minute what it must feel like to be bombarded with crazy screaming people spitting insults (and reportedly death threats) every time you make a decision someone doesn’t like. We know, we’ve had to face off with hostile and persistent anti-vaxxers for a few posts we’ve published.

Then imagine having to work every day cajoling the entrenched bureaucracy in the various health regions to adapt policies to changing circumstances. We don’t know about you, but one of our least satisfying experiences is dealing with multiple health authorities.

It’s a job lacking in fun, that’s for sure.

Then throw in the fact that COVID-19 keeps mutating every time we just get comfortable with one set of guidelines. Cue up more angry attacks.

That’s why we reconsidered our suggestion last week that Dr. Henry resigns her post.

With Omicron infections spiking, hospitals nearing breaking points, and doctors, nurses and support staff overwhelmed and exhausted, now is not the time to replace the captain of our ship. That was a step too far.

While we don’t think Dr. Henry should resign, we feel a serious course correction would help her rebuild the public trust lost.

As we’ve pointed out before, Dr. Henry initially did a great job building public trust with her calm demeanour and consistent communications. As we enter year two of the pandemic, here are some suggestions to rebuild that trust by:

1. Publicly admitting that research shows COVID is primarily transmitted through the air and matching upgraded public health requirements on masks, spacing and ventilation put in place in other jurisdictions, including:

a. Announce that she is mandating (and will supply) N95 (or equivalent) masks for health care workers, teachers and any other job requiring employees to be in contact with the public.

b. Order that all public buildings (and large private buildings) access their ventilation systems and install HEPA filters if they don’t meet minimum standards.

2. Commit to ensuring that everyone experiencing (or near anyone with) symptoms gets immediate access to a COVID test.

3. Ramp up staff to allow for comprehensive contract tracing so people know they might have been exposed and can take appropriate action to avoid further spread.

Dr. Henry, we know you are tired. We know you’ve said you “want to get out of the order’s business,” but now is not the time to back away or down tools. We need your steady hand now more than ever before.

As the Provincial Health Officer, you–and you alone–have the authority and the power of government to ensure adequate protections are in place. We want you to use them!

Given Omicron’s extraordinary transmission rate, and people’s growing fatigue, we need you to step up your game to protect us all, especially the most vulnerable.