Monday, March 30, 2020

Why Dr Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Needs to be Fired

Recently there was an article on how Canada's COVID-19 response is led mostly by women. A lot was made of the fact that Canada's Chief Medical Officer, the Deputy PM, and the top doctors for several provinces and cities (Toronto/Vancouver) are all women. Now to me, I was never a big fan of Trudeau's gender balanced cabinet. Personally, it doesn't matter for a job whether you are a man or a woman. What matters is how good you are at the job. And I am not that impressed with this group.

Going by our numbers and our state of the nation right now, most of these women (sorry, most of these employees) have been HORRIBLE at their job. And at the top of the pack, led by Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and head of the Public Health Agency of Canada, Dr Theresa Tam.

As far as I am concerned, when all this is over, she needs to be FIRED. 

The only reasons she shouldn't be fired right now is that we are in the middle of a crisis.  At the minimum, there should be a public inquiry on how badly she has mismanaged this crisis and how these so-called "experts" have failed Canada every step of this crisis.

Let's take a look at some facts.

  1. As early as Dec 1, 2019, Taiwan told WHO that the virus causing COVID-19 was a case of human-to-human transmission. WHO chose to believe China, which defiantly lied and said it was NOT a case of human-to-human transmission. Canada (and Theresa Tam) chose to believe WHO.

    You can say it was the fault of WHO, which was trying to appease China, but why did Dr. Tam not take the cautious and conservative approach of preparing, just in case ? You are there to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.
  2. As things deteriorated in China, Dr. Tam continued to emphasize that the risk to Canadians was "low". It wasn't until January 15, 2020 that Canada activated its Emergency Operations Centre. Yet flights from China continued to come to Canada daily. Plane loads of people, whether they were affected with COVID-19 or not, continued to flood into Canada.

    US President Donald Trump banned anyone from China coming to USA (with certain exceptions) on January 31. Meanwhile Dr. Tam continued to toe the general line that "travel restrictions does not work". Canada did not ban foreigners from coming to Canada until mid-March, when it practically had no choice.
  3. Iran reported the first case of COVID-19 on Feb 19. One of the first cases in New Zealand came from a family who had recently traveled to the Islamic Republic. At least three of the first 12 cases in Canada came via Iran, as did all 33 initial cases in Iraq. In the United States, the first confirmed COVID-19 case in New York City was a health-care worker who had returned from Iran, and Los Angeles also identified a coronavirus patient from Iran who passed through LAX.

    Yet Canada continued to allow passengers from Iran to disembark in Canada. Flight after flight came in, and plane loads of people disembarked. One of the infected travellers even rode the TTC and Go on March 4, 2020. This was when community transmission probably started in earnest. And yet, Dr. Tam continued to insist the risk to Canadians was "low".
  4. On Thursday morning, March 12, 2020, Ontario premier Doug Ford told the people who were planning to travel for March break to go ahead "and enjoy themselves". This, despite the fact that USA (the most likely destination for many) had become a hotbed of COVID-19. Remarkably, even on March 12, Dr. Tam had no dire warnings for Canada, even as the situation worsened. By this time, Europe (especially Italy) was the new epicentre of the disease. Still planeloads of passengers continued to come from Italy into Canada with no screenings at the airports and no restrictions. Where was Dr. Tam? She was sleeping on the job, it seems. Risk to Canadians - "low".

    Just wash your hands.
  5. Suddenly, late Thursday night, March 12, 2020, Sophie GrĂ©goire Trudeau, the wife of Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, came down with flu like symptoms after travelling from UK. She was tested for COVID-19, and the result came back positive.

    All hell suddenly broke loose.
It wouldn't be unfair to state the Canada woke up after Mrs. Trudeau tested positive. Suddenly we stopped going to work. Suddenly schools were closed - initially for two weeks, and then indefinitely. The situation was no longer "risk is low". The situation was suddenly "stay home". Businesses were immediately shut down if they were considered non essential. 

The number of cases jumped, and continues to go up daily. The healthcare workers are suddenly complaining of a shortage of masks, gloves and other PPE.  There is now a Global News article on how we have to choose who gets to live in Canada due to a shortage of ventilators. The news is grim and this week is critical.

So the question remains - why is Canada now REACTING to the crisis, rather than being PROACTIVE? It remains Dr. Tam's responsibility to make sure we were not just prepared for this crisis, but on top of it, without it ruining our economy. 

So how did we go from "risk is low" to the "situation is grim" in the blink of an eye?

There was never a perfect solution to this. What we could hope for was to delay the onset of the crisis as long as possible and limit its effect once it was here. 
  • When China became the ground zero for the crisis, we should have immediately banned all travellers and flights from China. In fact, Air Canada suspended its operations in China long before any government directive.
  • When Iran became the epicentre, we should have barred any traveller who had been to Iran in the last 14 days from entering Canada, whether they were showing symptoms or not.
  • When the disease moved to Italy, we immediately should have suspended all travel from Europe. 
  • In all these cases, surprisingly US President Donald Trump took these decisions. But even he was late, and his details diluting the intent of the action. But at least HE TOOK the action. Canada, based on Dr. Tam's advise, never did. 
  • If you argue that this would mean denying Canadians entry to Canada, it would only be temporary. Just like we did for Canadians stuck in Wuhan, there could be separate flights to bring Canadians home (just like now).
  • When you bring these Canadians home, they should have been quarantined in a place away from the community (just like those from Wuhan were held at CFB Trenton for 14 days). Then you would not have had the community transmission which is how it is spreading now.
  • When reports emerged of Seattle being the hotbed of USA cases, we should have immediately closed the border to US citizens except essential travel. Instead, we were told "the risk is low" and we continued.
  • When the first infected traveller rode the TTC, that should have been it for start of social distancing and other measures. Yet we were told the "risk is low" and we continued.
  • Until Mrs. Trudeau got the virus.

There are things that we can be doing RIGHT NOW to abate the disease. Yet, we are not.

  • Get local factories to make test kits and ventilators. If we need them, we have them. If we don't, we can export them to the States.
  • Why are we not ramping up immediately to produce more PPE? Where is the plan for that?
  • How long are we planning to stay in shut down mode? Where is a plan to return to normal? How are you going to sanitize public transit?
  • Today there was a speech by the PM and for the first time we are hearing that masks are a good thing. Yet for so long we were told "don't wear masks".
  • What is up with the supply chain? When can we expect Lysol wipes?
  • What are you doing to keep control and track of inbound travellers to avoid another spread?

So, Dr. Theresa Tam, what did you actually do with all that expertise? And why should you not be fired for gross negligence?