Defense of a strong and independent public health

Defense of a strong and independent public health

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The scientific community urges the government not to turn the page too quickly on the lessons of the last two years and to continue listening to science for the next waves and pandemics to come.

One of those lessons for the Dr Alain Poirier, former national director of public health, is the clear distinction to maintain between politics and public health. “It was so big at first that it was quickly controlled by politicians, by the prime minister himself,” observes the doctor.

“It is the whole question of how a health emergency should be managed. We saw that this time it was very political and then people ended up not even unraveling the functions of the Dr Arruda, the Minister of Health and the Prime Minister”.

Once this observation has been established, several failed network structures will also need to be quickly addressed, believe scientists present Friday at a symposium on managing COVID-19 at the ACFAS conference.

“If we think about the future, we can’t do it without addressing the issue of these big issues there, because all the things that we’re going to put on paper in a beautiful plan, we’re going to hit a wall if you don’t have the ability to put them in their place’, insists the DD Cécile Tremblay, microbiologist-infectologist at the CHUM Research Center.

permanent monitoring

The latter proposes the creation of a permanent pandemic surveillance structure that would be independent of politics and protected from the cuts that public health has experienced in recent years.

“We had written plans, for post-Ebola, for post-H1N1, but it remains on a nice tablet because no one is responsible for following up on the recommendations,” explains the specialist.

For example, the DD Judith Fafard, from the Quebec Public Health Laboratory, recalled that the province had made stocks of reagents for testing after recent flu epidemics, but that these had not been renewed “due to budget cuts.”

“We will have to avoid tightening too quickly and return to the pre-pandemic state,” estimates the DD Annie-Claude Labbé of the University of Montreal. “You have to be flexible and not give up expertise that you may not need on a daily basis.”

locally made

Scientists also identify the issue of local manufacturing of key equipment among the priorities to better react to future threats.

The Dr Richard Massé, who was Horacio Arruda’s right-hand man in the first waves of the crisis, admits that this lack of capacity must have been “a great annoyance”.

“There is no reserve of equipment, there is no reserve of health or reserve in the laboratories”, affirms the doctor who indicates that the issue was put back on the agenda, but that now the government had to be harassed ‘so that it arrives’. done’.

“Il va fallair accepter que dans certains secteurs névralgiques, on va payer plus cher pour avoir sous la main ce dont on a besoin pour répondre à une pandémie”, added Cécile Tremblay qui en appelle à la fin des “économies de bout de chandelle” in health.

Get ready for the next wave

And for the future, knowing that a seventh wave is “almost certain” in the fall, the government will have to remain on its guard even if the population is no longer in the mood for the joys of summer.

“The best indicators on variants come from Europe, among others. These are indicators that cannot be overlooked,” said virologist Benoit Barbeau.

“We will not be dealing with a less transmissible virus. When it happens, it will come directly as an Omicron wave. A detection and testing strategy that corresponds to that will be needed, ”insists Cécile Tremblay, insisting that the pandemic is not over.

“There are still 30 people dying a day. We would still have to put a name to each of these people because in the first wave they were dying 30 a day and we were in an uproar, but there, for nothing.

Some keys in the fight against the next waves and pandemics

  • Clear independence of public health from politics
  • Establishment of a permanent pandemic surveillance structure
  • Investing in local manufacturing of essential medical items
  • Ensuring investments in public health are sustained
  • Evolution of the computerized data analysis network
  • Maintain Testing for At-Risk Populations

Source: Colloquium “Science, projection and pandemic: The clash of ideas”, ACFAS

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