The reorganization inside the hierarchy of Public Health is raising alarm bells for David Coon, Recent Brunswick’s Green Party leader but the federal government says the structure never modified.
In an email exchange shared on social media, Coon indicated Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, had been shuffled out of her more “independent role” reporting on to the minister to someone underneath an assistant deputy minister.
“I’m very concerned that the chief medical officer of health’s position seems to have been moved from outside of the bureaucracy, directly interacting and reporting to the minister, to being set on the identical level essentially as an assistant deputy minister,” Coon said talking to reporters on Friday.
Coon said the change appeared to have been made with none notice or rationale.
“It opens up the position much more to be subject to political considerations because, as we all know, deputy ministers are partly there to be sure that their minister looks good and doesn’t run into trouble. And so to the degree that that has an impact on the chief medical officer of health’s work, that’s concerning,” he said.
He said he worries concerning the CMOH being subject to political influence with regards to making public health recommendations.
However the Department of Health in an email response on Tuesday disputing that any changes were made.
“The Chief Medical Officer of Health and the entire Assistant Deputy Ministers of Health report on to the Deputy Minister. This reporting structure has not modified and has been in place for a few years,” said spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane.
“The Chief Medical Officer stays accountable for the general public health recommendations, whereas the Assistant Deputy Minister is accountable for the operations that support these recommendations and their implementation across the system.”
Macfarlane says this structure models other organizations just like the Public Agency of Canada.
“On account of the large demand on human and operational resources, especially inside Public Health Recent Brunswick, the Department of Health created the position of Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Health early within the pandemic with the intention to provide additional support to the Chief Medical Officer of Health in overseeing the operational and administrative features of the COVID-19 response,” he said.
Coon added he doesn’t know when or why the switch was made, saying he hasn’t been capable of ask the federal government directly.
One example, he said, was when the deputy chief medical officer of health, Dr. Cristin Mueke, made a powerful advice to return to wearing masks indoors and in public spaces amid the spread of the Delta variant through communities in Zone 1, but days later Russell clawed back that message, saying it was a private selection.
“That’s potentially an example because that’s the identical language the premier had been using,” he said.
He said the position now feels trapped and far more subject to political influence.
The Public Health website does indicate the manager management committee is above the chief medical officer of health, which incorporates the deputy minister, the associate deputy minister accountable for corporate services and francophone affairs, the assistant deputy minister for health services and programs, and the assistant deputy minister for public health.
Once you expand that section of the organization chart below it’s the director of communications.
The subsequent branch down is the office of the chief medical officer of health. That title is included in the manager management committee but only after the associate deputy minister, the assistant deputy minister and the assistant deputy minister for public health.
The Department of Health says it added three additional regional chief medical officers of health to help within the response to the pandemic.