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Sask. NDP calling for health officer’s recommendations to be made public

Health critic Vicki Mowat said the province should be sharing the chief medical health officer's advice to officials, regarding pandemic public health orders in Sask.
NDP health critic Vicki Mowat crop
NDP health critic Vicki Mowat critiqued the government's lack of transparent regarding Dr. Saqib Shahab's recommendations.

REGINA — Opposition health critic Vicki Mowat put a call to the provincial government today to share the public health advice given by chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab with the public, in the interest of transparency.

The NDP said they want to see the recommendations given by Shahab, to help explain the decision-making process that led to the lifting of public health orders in July and the implementation of restrictions made this fall.

“The people of Saskatchewan should be allowed to see the chief medical health officer’s recommendations and why [government officials] are choosing to either accept or ignore them,” said Mowat.

Mowat said that the public health orders currently in place from Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman don’t align with recommendations made by the medical community.

“There’s divide between what Dr. Shahab has said and what the public health orders actually look like, and this is why we’re calling for transparency on what those recommendations really are,” said Mowat.

She also critiqued the timeline of previous public health orders, noting that it took three weeks for masking and proof of vaccination policies to be announced after Shahab first mentioned them during a public appearance.

The NDP wants to see a full list of recommendations made by the CMHO since the beginning of the pandemic shared publicly, as well as the creation of a public to include past and future public health recommendations.

“I think we need to get to the bottom of what’s happening here, and the simplest way is to be honest with the people of Saskatchewan,” said Mowat.

The call follows announcements from both the premier and the provincial COVID-19 emergency response team that ICUs in Saskatchewan are so overwhelmed, that patients are now being transferred out of province to receive care.

Saskatchewan reached a record high number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds on Monday, reporting 85 individuals filling surge beds. Six patients are being airlifted to Ontario hospitals this week.

Previous service slowdowns across the health care system, including the cancellation of surgeries and redeployment of staff, were made to decrease strain, but many residents say the action has only caused more stress.

“This was caused by a series of political decisions over the last couple of months made by this government,” said Mowat. 

“My heart goes out to every person in Saskatchewan who is now dealing with the consequences of these decisions.”

Saskatchewan has also recorded the highest COVID-19 death rate in Canada at this time, which Mowat said is causing concerns.

“People are legitimately asking questions about the government's role in working to prevent these unnecessary deaths,” said Mowat.

Last week, Merriman told the media during a press conference that he could not provide details about what recommendations Shahab has made to the ministry, as he didn’t have them in front of him. Premier Moe has also previously avoided questions requesting the disclosure of recommendation details with press. 

Mowat said Merriman's response was inadequate, and again criticised him for scattered public appearances and the province’s “hands-off” approach to it's fourth-wave response. 

She also pointed to the province's reluctance to share COVID-19 modelling data for the fourth wave, after previously sharing such information earlier in the pandemic.

“The Sask Party has lost all credibility on this file,” said Mowat. “I think this raises questions about why the minister isn't releasing this information and whether he has something to hide in this situation.”

Mowat said that there are other provinces in Canada that provide more operational independence to their CMHO, including British Columbia, and that reforms may be needed in Saskatchewan.

“We certainly need to look at the independence of our chief medical health officer and what powers they have to speak freely about their recommendations,” said Mowat.