Top 2 WRHA executives leave the country in midst of COVID-19 outbreak; now in self-isolation

Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. LifeLabs is Canada's largest private provider of diagnostic testing for health care. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

At the beginning of the month while Canada was grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak, two of the city’s top health executives left the country on vacation.

As a global pandemic was looming the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Operating Officer of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority left Canada.

Global News has learned WRHA COO Krista Williams and newly appointed CEO Vickie Kaminski both left for Australia on separate vacations in early March.

Kaminski started as CEO on January 6 after former CEO Real Cloutier retired from the WRHA.

WRHA CEO Vickie Kamisnki. Global News
WRHA COO Krista Williams. Global News

The health region refused to give specifics on their departure dates but said it was before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11 and before Manitoba’s first positive COVID-19 case was confirmed on March 12.

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READ MORE: Canadians should postpone, cancel non-essential foreign travel amid coronavirus: officials

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In the first two weeks of March, there were more than 250 cases of COVID-19 across the country and the first death of a Canadian occurred on March 9.

By March 13, the prime minister told all Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country.

On March 14 the federal government urged Canadians abroad to return while commercial travel was still available.

Trudeau spoke to Canadians on March 16 and again said now is the time to come home.

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The WRHA confirmed both Williams and Kaminski started to make travel arrangements back to Winnipeg after Trudeau’s announcement.

Both Kaminski and Williams declined to speak with Global News but the WRHA issued a statement on behalf of both.

“No blanket travel bans were in place at the time that many employees, including the CEO, travelled.”

“Leadership from health-care systems across the province, as well as many other industries, government, and other sectors, were still undertaking both personal and work-related travel at that time,” a spokesperson said. “The system has been well-supported and is in good hands at all times.”

Both are currently respecting the 14-day self-isolation period at their homes in Winnipeg.

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