Having been raised by a doctor and a nurse I have been a kind of ‘insider’ to the medical profession. Thus, it certainly is no secret to me how medical professionals have to work, and the challenges they face in dealing with both provincial and corporate health initiatives. Yet with all doctors having literally sworn to “apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required” we find ourselves again having to deal with controversy surrounding Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
It was bad enough that Hinshaw, sworn to protect the health of every Albertan, said in July 2021 that self-isolation is not required if we test positive for COVID-19. This stunningly bad assessment led to severe overwork and stress for our frontline health-care workers, who were thus faced with reduced pay and shrinking job opportunities. But they found a way to keep going, and to this day continue to provide the healthcare we need, despite Hinshaw (and related UCP policy).
Knowing all this you can then fairly accurately guess how outraged I was to hear that Hinshaw received a $228,000 bonus in 2021, the biggest bonus paid to any Alberta civil servant in recent years. Thus, when combined with her annual salary, Hinshaw earned over $590,000, as she and the UCP wreaked havoc on the province.
There is so much to say, and so much unprintable diatribe I would love to say in this column, but in the end it would make no difference: what is done is done. So I can only speak to Hinshaw, and our Minister of Finance Travis Toews, and challenge them in the following manner: I dare you both to do better. I dare you, Dr. Hinshaw, to take that bonus money, and put it where the healers and the sick can benefit most.
For example, there is Operation Smile, a charity that provides cleft palate surgeries for impoverished children worldwide. These children either die from the condition, or survive to face a life of social alienation and poverty unless they are helped. I dare you to think of them.
Think of the nurses that UCP policy has overwhelmed and made to suffer: provide mental health support for them through the Canadian Nurses Foundation COVID-19 Fund, as well as greater opportunity for them to receive the training they need to better survive the ongoing pandemic. Doctors are nothing without nurses, so stand by your fellow health professionals in this time of hardship.
Also, you can stand with our province’s Indigenous people by supporting (via the CNF) Indigenous nurses who are reaching out to (or residing within) our Indigenous communities. Often they are the only health-care professional the local community has access to, so your bonus money could literally be saving lives and improving the health of many future generations through prevention and education.
Indeed, such a call to help is one we all must heed. But as the Chief Medical Officer of Health, you made this calling your official career. So please, do the right thing: work for the people, not in spite of them.
Dr. Daniel Schnee is an anthropologist and jazz/rock drummer.