During a press conference at the legislative building Tuesday morning, Premier Scott Moe reiterated a statement he made the week before about Saskatchewan doctors needing to do more in order to quell disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines. Now some doctors are calling him out on it.
“I would hope that in the days ahead we could see our medical community really engaging, to take a direct look at some of the misinformation that’s being provided and provide some answers for Saskatchewan people,” Moe said.
“I think we have a very active and engaged medical community, highly intelligent community that I think could really answer the bell as to what Saskatchewan people are looking for,” he said.
Tuesday evening, Dr. Tamara Hinz took to social media to convey her dismay at what Moe said.
In a thread on Twitter directed at the premier, Hinz said, “It was more than disheartening to hear you talk today about how doctors should start publicly educating and talking to media to counter pandemic misinformation, as if we haven’t been doing this kind of advocacy from the start.”
Within the thread, Hinz included multiple letters that had been addressed to the premier from the past year, asking for more stringent health policies when appropriate, which were signed by hundreds of doctors.
She goes on to say physicians within the province have been on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to provide education and information.
“We’ve done interviews with local, national and even international media, sometimes even in other languages,” the tweet reads.
She adds, “we do this as a labour of love and out of a sense of obligation, so it feels like more than a slap in the face to have our premier now announce that there is ‘an opportunity for medical professionals to provide some guidance.'”
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Hinz says she went through an array of emotions, including disbelief “that the premier would say something like that.” Her feeling of disbelief quickly turned into one of frustration, she said.
“Maybe all of this work has been shouting into the void that as much as we’ve been trying to share expertise to collaborate to express our concerns, to provide evidence-based recommendations, that they’ve been falling on deaf ears,” Hinz said in an interview with Global News on Tuesday.
Hinz said she’s not aware of her or her peers ever receiving a response or acknowledgment to the letters they sent to Moe.
While in some cases they did see belated action on their recommendations, Hinz was not sure if that was directly related to their calls to action.
“It does feel like a bit of a deflection of blame or responsibility.”
“We can advocate and educate until we’re blue in the face, but ultimately we are not in charge of those policy decisions – all of those actions rest at the feet of our government,” Hinz stated.
She added doctors have also had countless conversations with family members, friends and strangers answering COVID-19-related questions and vaccine fears, all of which have been done unpaid during “precious hours off with … families.”
Dr. Alex Wong, an infectious disease specialist based in Regina also took to social media to lay out his frustrations with the premier’s message.
Wong tweeted: “I heard our premier said yesterday Saskatchewan (health-care workers) needed to ‘answer the bell.'”
“Sir. We’ve been here from day 1. We’re exhausted & burnt out, but we’ll keep giving #SK everything we have left.”
Wong ends his tweet by asking Moe to “please support us and not kick us in the gut when we’re already down? Thank you.”
In an interview on Monday, Wong explained that most people who have yet to be vaccinated at this point, for whatever reason, are probably likely to contract the Delta variant within the coming months.
“It’s so contagious, society is obviously still open, so there’s probably not a lot of time to work on getting vaccines into those people,” Wong stated.
Additionally, he said he’s had several one-on-one discussions with numerous individuals about COVID vaccines.
“I get messages from people asking me to talk to their mother or grandmother or family member or sibling or whoever and I do as much as I can and I’m capable of doing, and again those are hard, 30-minute, 45, 60-minute conversations,” Wong said.
Both Hinz and Wong say they’ll continue to do what they’ve always done throughout the pandemic, which is to educate others about the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines and dispel misinformation.