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Answering questions from the committee later in the day, Dr. Deena Hinshaw clarified her role within the Public Health Act. She said she has two overarching goals: assess the population’s health and provide recommendations to the health minister. She said, as the chief medical officer of health, she is an adviser, not a decision-maker.

“The decision-makers take the chief medical officer of health’s advice as one part of the considerations in the very difficult decisions that they need to make and I have always felt that the advice that I have provided has been met with respect and has been considered,” said Hinshaw.

She said the chief medical officer of health does have discretion around specific technical decisions, such as mandating the use of lower doses of drugs during shortages, but does not make policy decisions.

“If I was going to be making a policy decision that was explicitly contrary to what the minister had decided, that would be inappropriate and at that point the minister would potentially relieve me of my role,” said Hinshaw.

NDP MLA Sarah Hoffman said Hinshaw needs to be put in a position where her advice and recommendations are accessible by the public.

“If the government wanted to get public health right, one of the first things they would do is make sure that Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and whoever the chief medical officer of health is moving forward, has the ability to speak independently, without the reporting structure that clearly goes to the minister and the premier and executive council,” said Hoffman.

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