Over 100 Alberta doctors sign letter calling for investigation into Hinshaw decision

Over 100 Alberta doctors signed an open letter to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Dr. John Cowell expressing concern about revoking a decision to hire former chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Hinshaw had reportedly been hired and removed from a role with an Alberta Health Services (AHS) Indigenous health-focused program called Indigenous Wellness Core.

As reported by CBC, the decision led to the resignation of the group’s medical director, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, who said she left out of frustration with the move.

Read More: Respected Alberta Health physician resigns after hiring drama

The doctors are requesting an investigation into the ethics and integrity of Hinshaw’s removal from the role, as well as an apology to both Hinshaw and Tailfeathers.

They also say the situation undermined “this planned collaboration” between Tailfeathers and Hinshaw and “damages years of progress.”

“We, the undersigned, are writing as Albertan physicians to express grave concern over the decision to revoke Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s contract with AHS and the ensuing resignation of Dr. Esther Tailfeathers,” the letter from the doctors reads.

“Revoking Dr. Hinshaw’s contract has caused significant harm, not only to Dr. Tailfeathers and Dr. Hinshaw, but also to the relationship between physicians and AHS/AH, and most importantly, harm to Albertans.

“Albertans need health leadership to continue to focus on system improvement and advance Albeta’s Indigenous health strategy.”

The letter says Hinshaw has been prevented from working for AHS, calling the retraction “entirely unfair and unprofessional.”

“It signals to all physicians in this province that their positions are unsafe and could be targeted for political gain.” the letter reads.

“There is no place for leadership which undermines the decisions, recommendations, and sovereignty of the Indigenous Wellness Core, and no place for political interference in health-care delivery.”

Tailfeathers says Dr. Hinshaw was hired by the Alberta Health Services Indigenous team in May and was supposed to start in June, but the job offer was retracted.

She said Hinshaw was selected from a list of applicants because of her experience and good relations with Indigenous leaders.

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Smith was asked about the move Saturday on her Corus radio call-in show.

The host of the program, Wayne Nelson, asked her if Hinshaw being “unhired” was a case of political interference.

“Well, I guess you’d have to ask Dr. John Cowell about that,” Smith responded.

“These are decisions that are made internally. I was briefed as it was unfolding, and it does seem to me that one of the things you would observe about our government is how much we care about Indigenous health.”

Nelson then asked directly: “So, no influence or direction from your office specifically in this particular case?”

“Look, I was briefed after the news became public, and it’s up to Dr. John Cowell to answer those questions,” responded Smith.

Last week, when asked about the Hinshaw decision,  AHS told CityNews it “doesn’t speak to personnel matters.”

“AHS remains firmly committed to working with Indigenous communities and will continue to work to provide culturally safe healthcare for all First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples throughout the province,” the statement reads.

Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer during the COVID-19 pandemic, was canned by Smith in early November 2022, shortly after she became premier.

There was also public outrage when it was revealed Hinshaw had been paid a $228,000 bonus on top of her regular $363,000 salary in 2021.

After Hinshaw’s firing, Smith relinquished the AHS board and appointed Cowell as the administrator, who recently had his contract extended.

CityNews has reached out to the Office of the Premier for comment.

-With files from Silvia Naranjo and The Canadian press

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