In this edition of Today in BC, host Peter McCully chats with provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, who was asked what training she would have received in the Canadian Armed Forces that would serve her well in her current role.
“I think there were a lot of things you go through when you spend time in the military with the training,” she said. “Whether it’s the basic training and then the medical training and then the work that we do. I think about it in terms of leadership in particular, understanding how to organize, how to make decisions in a crisis, having experience and having to do that.”
Henry worked in Toronto and was the operational head on the response to the SARS outbreak as well as the Ebola outbreak overseas in Uganda. Those experiences made her uneasy when word started to come out of China about what was spreading there.
“I was one of the medical officers of health at the City of Toronto working with Toronto Public Health when SARS happened in 2003,” she said. “I think back a lot to late 2019, early 2020. What we were hearing was so similar to what we were hearing in late 2002.”
Henry commented on the current conditions surrounding COVID-19.
“We know this virus isn’t finished with us yet and until we’re in a good place around the globe, there’s still possibilities that it’s going to come back with a vengeance,” she said. “It’s likely to come back in the fall and part of what I’m doing right now, and my team’s doing, is looking at is what does that mean? What are the possible scenarios we could be faced with?”
McCully wondered if Henry was able to relax and get away and not think about the job?
“Not yet, but it’s in my future, it has been a long time,” she said. “We have COVID as we’ve also had of course worsening of the toxic drug crisis. But I am planning on getting away, hopefully within the next few weeks, as long as everything stays as calm as it is right now. I think my challenge will be not thinking about the job and really trying to disconnect for a while.”
A mailbag question from a Today in BC Podcast listener asked what could be done about the shortage of family doctors.
Henry said this question was not in her area of having a lot of influence, but noted: “I believe we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the system.”
“This is not unique to B.C. or to Canada,” she said. “I think around the globe, we’re seeing stretched health care resources. During this pandemic, we’ve also made some big leaps ahead. Things like virtual care, it’s expanded people’s ability in more remote communities to get access to care. But we also know that you can’t only see people remotely. We need to have that interaction in a safe space as well.”
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