A troubleshooter has been brought in to help Ontario’s public health officials manage the COVID-19 pandemic with a “frustrated” Premier Doug Ford going public over concerns the province’s testing regime is falling short, the Star has learned.
Sources said former Toronto public health chief Dr. David McKeown came aboard last week to lead a table of experts reviewing and scrutinizing major public health measures to fight the new coronavirus that has infected more than 5,000 Ontarians and killed more than 200.
In a brief interview with the Star on Wednesday, McKeown downplayed the importance of his role, although health sector sources said that’s how it was described during an April 2 conference call hosted by the Ministry of Health.
“I’ve just been brought in to give some assistance at the ministry and the chief (medical officer of health’s) office. That’s all I’m going to say for now,” said McKeown, an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
A spokesman for Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed McKeown has joined the effort. “This isn’t a time for egos in sandboxes. This is a time for the best and brightest to come together,” Travis Kann told the Star.
McKeown, who left the city job in 2016, was praised as a “steady hand” at city hall, where former councillor Joe Mihevc described him as “a progressive scientist who knows where things need to go.”
Ford sounded off on the province’s relative lack of testing — using just a quarter of its lab capacity since a testing backlog was cleared on Friday — and ordered health officials to do better.
“My patience has worn thin,” Ford said, calling the failure to take advantage of the province’s full testing capacity “absolutely unacceptable.”