Less than a month after news broke that their boss was fired, two of Alberta’s other top doctors have resigned from their posts within the provincial government, Health Minister Jason Copping revealed Wednesday.
Copping was asked about the departures during question period at the Alberta legislature by NDP health critic David Shepherd.
“I can confirm that the two — both — deputy chief medical officers of health have submitted their resignation. They are still continuing to work at this point in time,” Copping said in response.
Dr. Rosana Salvaterra and Dr. Jing Hu both worked under former chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who was let go in November after Premier Danielle Smith came into power a month earlier.
Smith previously indicated she believed Hinshaw and other public health leaders in Alberta did not provide the best advice for the province as the hospital system faced severe strain amid multiple waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Copping did not say when Salvaterra and Hu resigned or give a reason for their decisions.
“We are in the process of actually looking to fill those roles and support Dr. Joffe in terms of his role as a chief medical officer of health with all the support that he needs to be able to fulfill his function,” Copping added.
Salvaterra joined the Alberta Health CMOH office on Oct. 4, 2021, after previously serving as the top doctor for Peterborough Public Health in Ontario.
Salvaterra’s Alberta Health biography said she has extensive public health experience. She holds a master’s degree in health research methodology, a specialty in public health and preventive medicine and is an adjunct professor at Queen’s University.
Her career in public health included work in the areas of the COVID-19 response, mental health, the opioid response, women’s health, poverty reduction, health equity, community food security and building stronger relationships with First Nations.
Hu was appointed a deputy CMOH on Jan. 27, 2020, and did not have a public presence beforehand.
Hu received her medical degree from Tongji Medical University in Wuhan, China.
Her Alberta Health biography said she completed an internal medicine residency, worked as a respirologist for three years, and earned a Ph.D. in medical science before coming to Canada.
From 2014 to 2019, Hu did her public health and preventive medicine training at the University of Calgary.
The Opposition said losing more senior leaders adds chaos to the health-care system instead of providing stability and support.
“I fear that the resignations of the Deputy Chief Medical Officers of Health will lead to further chaos,” Shepherd said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“Danielle Smith has given credit to the opinions of conspiracy theorists such as Paul Alexander, who compared the COVID-19 vaccine to a bioweapon, while deriding those of public health experts in Alberta.
“The UCP are not valuing public health care — and public health experts — at a time when Albertans need it most.”
A spokesperson from Alberta Health confirmed both Salvaterra and Hu have given their notice but also did not say when or why.
“Preparations are underway to recruit to the public health physician positions. In the interim, Dr. Joffe has taken on the duties of chief medical officer of health fulltime as set out in the Public Health Act,” a statement from ministry spokesperson Charity Wallace said.
“We expect these changes to have no impact on the department’s and Dr. Joffe’s ability to meet the requirements of the Public Health Act.”