'Slap in the face': Sask. premier's advice to medical workers hits sour note with doctor
A Saskatchewan doctor is speaking out following Premier Scott Moe's suggestion that medical professionals "really provide some guidance for Saskatchewan people" to help dispel COVID-19 misinformation.
"It was more than disheartening to hear you talk today about how doctors should *start* publicly educating and talking to media to counter pandemic misinformation, as if we haven’t been doing this kind of advocacy from the start," Tamara Hinz wrote in a series of tweets Tuesday evening.
Hinz said the premier's remarks during a news conference held in Regina felt like a "slap in the face."
While responding to reporter's questions during a media availability largely focused on responding to the results of Monday's federal election, Moe said he thought the medical community "could answer the bell" by providing "direct answers" concerning COVID-19 vaccines and their safety.
In her tweets, Hinz said this has already been happening.
"We’ve had countless one on one conversations with friends, family, and strangers to answer COVID-related questions and allay vaccine-related fears. All of this has been done unpaid during precious hours off with our families," the Saskatoon-based child and adolescent psychiatrist said.
"We do this as a labour of love and out of a sense of obligation."
Hinz also bristled at the premier's suggestion that medical professionals use "access to the media" and social media to engage with the community during the pandemic.
"Sir, we’ve been providing (guidance) all along, to the public but most importantly to you. We have wanted to provide collaboration and share our expertise, to let you know our concerns," Hinz said in her tweets, which also included links to open letters penned by physicians in the province throughout the pandemic.
"Today we are in our worst wave yet, but please don’t place any blame at our feet."
Saskatoon emergency physician Dr. Paul Olszynski said he was also discouraged by the premier’s comments as they take away from the educational work healthcare workers have already been doing throughout the pandemic both on social media and through media interviews.
“The reality is that we have seen an unprecedented level of engagement by the medical community, the healthcare community here in Saskatchewan, and it has not yet been acknowledged or promoted or supported in a meaningful way.”
Olszynski said the premier and his party have a wider reach and better access to people in the province who are vaccine hesitant or misinformed than many healthcare workers, and that his government can help inform people by retweeting and sharing posts made by physicians that are backed up by scientific evidence.
“We are in a critical fourth wave of this pandemic. There is a tremendous amount of suffering and death that is going to happen and that’s not something that we can change at this point at our current trajectory,” Olszynski said.
“This is the time for policy. (Healthcare workers) can continue to share, but I think it’s a deflection. I think the key here is that we need policies that have enforcement behind them.”
Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) president Tracy Zambory called Moe’s comments demoralizing and “tone deaf.”
“It was just a real blow to an already exhausted, tired workforce that has been showing up consistently since March 2020," she said.
“Taking absolutely no responsibility for the fact that they are to be leading this pandemic and they’re not taking any advice from consummate professionals that show up everyday to keep patients safe in this province, like the registered nurses, like the physicians. So, now we find ourselves in a very, very critical situation where we’re going to have to start making some heartbreaking decisions,” she told CTV News.
“The frontline workers deserve some respect, they deserve to be listened to. They deserve to be listened to when we tell you that these public health measures right now haven’t gone far enough.”
In a statement to CTV News Wednesday, Moe’s press secretary Julie Legott said Saskatchewan residents, including those in the medical community, can engage with their government on policies that have been put in place.
“We would ask Saskatchewan’s professional medical community to further engage directly with individuals to combat the misinformation that is being communicated through various channels. There is an opportunity for our medical professionals to discuss the benefits to individuals of being fully vaccinated and the benefits to society of having more people vaccinated,” the statement said.