On Wednesday, Peter Jackson left a comment on my entry about The Straits-White Bay North by-election. Are you sure this isn't one of Westcott's guest editorials? Jackson asked, with a little winky-face to indicate gentle ribbing.
For the record, I do not keep in close contact with Craig Westcott, who is always busy cranking out The Business Post and the Irish Loop Post. However, I do miss his commentaries on the CBC Radio Morning Show.
Westcott saw Jacksons comment as well, and responded there. Then he sent me this note:
Geoff, since Peter suggested it, are you interested in a guest editorial? Embedded below is a preview of my column that will appear in the Irish Loop Post on Tuesday. You're welcome to run it now, if you like.
There are a few swipes at Danny and his government here, though it relates to how it is handling Westcott says fumbling the H1N1 situation.
My views on the vaccination program were not much different from Westcotts until recently, after a discussion with someone who has worked previously on similar health care issues. I can see that the situation is not black and white, and more nuanced than the alarming, angry and even hysterical news stories and Open Line comments. However, mistakes have been made and there are valid questions to be asked.
So I am running Westcotts commentary, as a starting point for discussion. I welcome comments from people who have lined up for vaccinations, those who refuse to take it, as well as those involved in organizing and delivering the inoculation program. I will allow anonymous comments, if you are connected to this process, as an employee or volunteer.
Guest column: Is there a vaccine for stupidity?
By Craig Westcott
The federal, and particularly provincial, response to the Swine flu crisis has been abysmally bad. On the federal side, the countrys top doctor, David Butler Jones, waited too long to give the go ahead to public use of the vaccine. That caused delays at the pharmaceutical plants, which translated into shortages of the vaccine right across the country. Indeed, the release of the vaccine is coming after flu season has already started. The vaccine should have been released and distributed before the end of September. The provincial governments response has been even worse. Health officials here had nearly a full year to straighten away the logistics involved in immunizing the full population. It was last fall, after all, when World Health Organization officials started warning us that a pandemic was on the way. But as the flu broke upon the province, it was clear the department and Eastern Health had fumbled things. The list of deficiencies is unacceptable. From not having enough public venues to handle the population (only two centres in St. Johns to serve a population of 100,000), to zero advertising and haphazard public education about which groups of people would be vaccinated first, the whole thing has turned into a schamozzle. In some rural areas, the vaccination clinics are not scheduled to open until the middle of November. The problem at Eastern Health and the Department of Health is lack of leadership. Since Premier Danny Williams got rid of Elizabeth Marshall during his first year of office, the department has been run by a succession of weak ministers. The first guy, John Ottenheimer, was ill himself and not physically up to running the governments biggest, most complex and most expensive department. It was under his watch that the breast cancer screening scandal was covered up. Then came Tom Osborne, whom health department mandarins didnt even respect enough to keep in the loop on important issues. Osborne was followed by Ross Wiseman, a man who didnt even bother to read his briefing notes. Wiseman was followed by worse again, Paul Oram, a buffoon who also eschewed briefing notes, probably because he couldnt read them, at least the most technical parts of them, given his glaring lack of education and an addiction to communicating with somebody, who must have been important, on his Blackberry. Its important to remember that Danny Williams appointed each and every one of these fools, so the crucial failure of leadership rests squarely on his twitching shoulders. Now we have Jerome Kennedy, who spent the critical weeks leading up to the onslaught of swine flu campaigning in a by-election on the Great Northern Peninsula, all in the hope of keeping the 44th seat on the government side. All I can say is its a darned good thing it was only Swine flu. Can you imagine the devastating effect that an outbreak of SARS or a nastier strain of bird flu would have? No doubt too, the health departments poor response to the swine flu pandemic is aggravated by the fact the province has not filled the several epidemiologists positions at Eastern Health that remain vacant these many months. Studying and countering the spread of pandemics is the exact specialty of epidemiologists. And we dont have one anymore. Were probably not likely to get one either, given the awful reputation that Eastern Health has, one that was amplified when Danny Williams interfered into the salary scales of specialists causing a flock of doctors to up and quit and leaving many others, I am told, looking for a way out. Yet more evidence of a failure of leadership in the highest ranks of the provincial government. It is extremely unfortunate that it takes a crisis such as swine flu or a catastrophe such as the breast cancer screening debacle to highlight for people this governments mismanagement of the health care system. Its too bad too there is no vaccine for stupidity or arrogance. I know a certain premier who could use an inoculation for both of those maladies.