Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said she has relied on her support systems and finding small moments of joy while guiding the province through COVID-19, while speaking at a virtual talk hosted by the University of Alberta Thursday evening.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw was the featured speaker at the Peter Lougheed Leadership College’s Leadership in Public Service series titled We are all in this together where she outlined her experience becoming one of the public faces of the COVID-19 pandemic response in Alberta. Hinshaw joined Dr. Lois Harder, principal, provost and vice-president of academics at the college.
Hinshaw said she has relied on family and friends as well as people sending her messages of support throughout the past year as she has been praised while at the same time has come under fire for her role in enacting and reducing public health restrictions. She also said she has embraced small pleasures to help find joy.
“For me public service isn’t just a word. I really believe that the job that I do, the job that my colleagues do, is truly working for the good of the people of Alberta,” said Hinshaw. “When I know that what I’m doing is with the best of my integrity, the best of my ability, to provide service in a very difficult time, that helps me get through.”
Following the discussion with Harder she took questions from close to 800 members of the public who were watching online.
When asked to reflect on the past year and where the province could have improved, Hinshaw said it is hard to judge in hindsight and each decision should be looked at in the context of what was known at the time and whether that decision was necessary.
She said she found the fact that COVID-19 is not more fatal than it is may have made it more difficult for people to buy into the public health response.
“In hindsight, what I think would be important, if we ever are facing something like this again, is to understand that the moderate situation where something is highly infectious, so it spreads to everyone if we let it and it’s not highly lethal, it’s actually a bigger problem,” said Hinshaw.
When speaking about the level of fatalities related to COVID-19, she was comparing it to SARS, which had a global fatality rate of around 11 per cent.
“I’m not wishing for that, but what it means is that when people look around and they see someone infected with that particular virus and most of them end up in hospital, many of them go on to die, everyone takes that seriously,” said Hinshaw.
Hinshaw also took time Thursday to reiterate once again that everyone is fighting against COVID-19 together and urged people to remember that the enemy is the virus, not each other.
“I think our current public discourse is very polarized,” said Hinshaw. “I think the pandemic has taken a lot away from all of us. It’s taken directly the people who have died … so many people have had very, very direct losses from the virus itself, but almost all of us, in fact, probably all of us have a lot of time.”