FUREY: A former military leader breaks down what Ontario must do now

Toronto Sun

When retired lieutenant-colonel David Redman wrote Alberta’s 2005 Alberta pandemic influenza response plan, he received input from 10 deputy ministers. Only one of them was the deputy minister of health. The rest represented other ministries, other sectors. PHOTO BY FILES /TORONTO SUN

When retired Lt.-Col. David Redman wrote Alberta’s 2005 Alberta pandemic influenza response plan, he received input from 10 deputy ministers. Only one of them was the deputy minister of health. The rest represented other ministries, other sectors.

That’s because a pandemic is a whole-of-society emergency. Health care shouldn’t be the only voice at the table.

But what would they do and what would that accomplish?

As Redman explained in a wide-ranging interview with the Sun , the Canadian Armed Forces largely civilianized their medical system. They have few doctors, nurses and medics. They rely on provincial systems when faced with their own challenges.

Redman, who was appointed by Ralph Klein as head of counterterrorism in Alberta the day after 9/11 and later became the head of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, says the mistakes all started when Ontario Premier Doug Ford put the chief medical officer in charge and basically ignored the existence of Emergency Management Ontario.

«They have not been allowed to do anything,» Redman said of EMO, which has previously been expected to take charge during floods, tornadoes, terrorism, nuclear accidents and, yes, pandemics. While they’re not specialists in any of those fields, they are tasked with the overall co-ordination of the response.

«They could bring process and logic to the issue, and they’re sitting there and waiting to be told to take over co-ordination of the pandemic,» Redman said. «They can’t do that until the premier forms an actual task force on the pandemic which represents all of industry».

During Redman’s decades in the Canadian Armed Forces, he was involved in responses to disasters across the world and has seen very few best practices rolled out to deal with COVID-19. «In two years, the people that are in charge have completely shown themselves incapable of even managing their own system,» Redman contended.

Redman described EMO as «the glue that binds» and laments that «the doctors being placed in charge has meant we have ignored every other sector.» This is how we’ve gotten to a point that schools have once again been shut in Ontario as a response to there being around 300 people in the ICU with COVID-19.

The 2018 federal pandemic influenza response plan put together by Dr. Theresa Tam’s office not long before COVID-19 began said that even in scenarios much more severe than the current one, places aren’t shut down by government. Instead, there is a priority on minimizing societal disruption.

Redman said that the mission should be «to ensure the minimum impact of COVID-19 on Ontario,» and that this is what EMO would do. «Because the current mission statement is to ensure the minimum impact of COVID-19 on the medical system — two different missions,» Redman said.

Hospital administrators may still be presented with challenging capacity issues, but the response wouldn’t be just to plunge into lockdown.

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Source: Anthony Furey | Toronto Sun

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