Dr. Deena Hinshaw, ousted from Alberta, moves to work with BC public health leaders

The former chief medical officer removed from her post in Alberta has taken a new job with BC’s public health leadership team, the westernmost province announced Wednesday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who became the face of Alberta’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, will work as BC’s deputy provincial health officer on a six-month contract.

“To help strengthen BC’s preparedness and response to present and future public health emergencies, I am pleased to share new additions to our public health leadership team at the Office of the PHO,” BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wrote in a statement.

As well as Hinshaw, BC has also hired Dr. Andrew Larder on “temporary assignment” for several months. Larder previously worked as a medical health officer for both Fraser and Interior Health.

“I feel very fortunate to work alongside such talented and dedicated public health experts and I know their expertise will be a great assistance as we emerge from the pandemic and continue to address the many public health challenges facing the province,” said Henry.

Hinshaw was replaced as Alberta’s top health official in November. The province’s new premier, Danielle Smith, announced during her first days in office that she would remove Hinshaw and recruit a new team of advisers in public health who consider COVID-19 an endemic disease.

Smith has made it clear that she blames both Hinshaw and Alberta Health Services for failing to deliver the best advice and care for Albertans as the hospital system came close to buckling in successive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of the bad decisions were made by Alberta Health Services on the basis of bad advice from the chief medical officer of health,” Smith told reporters on Oct. 22.

Hinshaw had served as Alberta’s chief medical health officer for more than three years. She had previously worked in public health since 2010.

WATCH | BC health minister welcomes Dr. Deena Hinshaw to BC:

BC health minister ‘delighted’ to see Dr. Deena Hinshaw moves from Alberta

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said Hinshaw’s “extraordinary” professional experience was welcome in the westernmost province, despite the circumstances of her departure from her previous post as Alberta’s top doctor.

Like Henry, Hinshaw became a familiar figure across the province through hundreds of regularly scheduled COVID-19 updates in the early years of the pandemic.

She was widely recommended during the early months of the pandemic for a calm, measured approach, but faced a series of controversies in 2021 — including an admission with former premier Jason Kenney that the province lifted restrictions too quickly in the summer and for receiving a bonus worth $228,000 that year.

On Wednesday, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix said he was “delighted” to see Hinshaw move west and respected the work she did during the height of the pandemic.

“Alberta had its own challenges which … I was able to observe myself,” he said during a news conference.

“But I think this is an outstanding public health doctor, an exceptional leader, someone who was under enormous scrutiny of a kind. I don’t think she would’ve expected — or anyone would’ve expected. She did an exceptional job,” he continued.

“I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to hire an outstanding public health doctor like Dr. Hinshaw.”

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