‘Distorted stance on COVID’: Fired Alberta health services board member calls out Smith

A health care leader fired by Prime Minister Danielle Smith has hit back in an open letter, saying her abusive and divisive attacks, mixed with “distorted” anti-science beliefs, make her a poor excuse for a leader.

EDMONTON — A health care leader fired by Premier Danielle Smith has hit back in an open letter, saying her abusive and divisive attacks, mixed with “distorted” anti-science beliefs, make her a poor excuse for a leader and one that literally puts Albertans in the wrong.

“(Albertans) are entitled to principled governance that respects decency and inspires confidence in its citizens,” Tony Dagnone said in the letter released Friday.

He was one of 11 Alberta Health Services board members recently fired by Smith.

“The current Premier is defying all of these aspirations as she level outlandish accusations against Alberta Health Services and its valuable workforce,” he wrote.

The prime minister chose to “play at his misguided supporters who rail against science and academic medicine under the veiled guise of freedom,” Dagnone said in the letter.

“His distorted stance on COVID, which I reiterate was and is a public health issue and not a political punching bag, is nothing short of a breach of the boundary when the lives of staff at the AHS and Albertans is at stake,” Dagnone wrote.

“In light of her lopsided public statements, the Prime Minister represents the darkest of role models for women who aspire to be accepted into positions of influence and leadership.

“Why would a self-respecting graduate want to pursue his vocation in health care in a province ruled by an anti-science premier? »

Dagnone could not immediately be reached for comment.

He and the other AHS board members were fired by Smith on Thursday, fulfilling a promise she made during her successful summer campaign to win the leadership of the United Conservative Party and become prime minister.

The 12th member of the board, Deborah Apps, resigned after Smith won the UCP leadership race in early October, citing concern over the disruptions Smith promised to impose on a system of poor health.

Alberta Health Services is the agency of more than 100,000 employees responsible for providing frontline care in the province.

Smith blamed AHS and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, for poor advice and execution in the pandemic, leading to blocked hospital wards and forcing the province to impose mandates and vaccination passports limiting freedom.

Hinshaw was removed from his post earlier this week.

The board has been replaced by Dr John Cowell, who is tasked with addressing several stress points in the system, including wait times for surgeries, ambulance bottlenecks, doctor shortages and medical services. overcrowded emergency.

Dagnone, an Order of Canada recipient with four decades of work in hospital and health care administration, said he had no political affiliations and felt compelled to stand up for AHS staff.

“I have witnessed the extraordinary collective willpower of our healthcare providers in the face of the unimaginable COVID,” he wrote.

“All deserve our respect and gratitude, however, the Premier chooses instead to vilify those who were saving Albertans.”

Smith spoke Friday at a meeting of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, but declined to speak to reporters. His office, in a statement, said the province must take action to address pressing health system issues.

“This decision (to fire the board of directors) was not personal, it is about better outcomes for Albertans, and we are grateful for the work done by the AHS board of directors,” reads- we in the press release.

Smith said there will be no health restrictions or vaccine mandates in future waves of COVID-19. And she said there would be no mask mandates in schools currently dealing with viral respiratory illnesses that are driving up absenteeism rates and filling children’s hospitals.

Smith has publicly embraced alternative approaches to COVID-19, including herd immunity and ivermectin, a since-debunked COVID-19 treatment.

Earlier this month, she announced she wanted to hear from Paul Alexander, a controversial critic of mainstream science who has called COVID-19 vaccines “biological weapons.”

“The Prime Minister takes his nonsense to a new level by inviting a former Trump adviser (Alexander) who was universally despised for promoting medical quackery,” Dagnone wrote.

“If (she) persists in making false, conspiratorial and unsubstantiated claims, she will be responsible for unnecessarily putting health care providers and Albertans at risk.

“His loose, caustic words seem to satisfy his need for bizarre thoughts that can and will ultimately impact people’s lives.”

NDP health critic David Shepherd, responding to Dagnone’s letter, echoed the concerns.

“(Smith) will continue to blame healthcare workers for the current state of care while taking no responsibility for the impact of the dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories it promotes,” Shepherd said.

“His reckless politicization of our public health care system will make it harder for Albertans to recruit and retain health care professionals and access care.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 18, 2022.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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