Ontario government officials have announced Kingston’s medical officer of health will take over as the province’s top public health job more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The appointment of Dr. Kieran Moore was formally announced on Sunday, a day after it was first revealed in a report published by The Toronto Star.
“As we continue to vaccinate more Ontarians and embark on our roadmap to reopen in the coming weeks, Dr. Moore’s years of experience working in public health will be crucial as we begin to gradually lift public health measures,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said in a statement.
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The statement said the government will introduce a motion at Queen’s Park on Monday to name Moore to the post. If approved, he will assume his duties on June 26.
Moore would succeed Dr. David Williams, who as Ontario’s chief medical officer of health has been a key visible public health figure throughout the pandemic.
Appointed to the post in 2016 after serving as the province’s associate chief medical officer of health and Thunder Bay’s medical officer of health, Williams deferred his retirement at Premier Doug Ford’s request in order to continue his work in responding to COVID-19.
However, Williams’ handling of the pandemic has been the subject of criticism.
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The Ontario COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission specifically cited Williams in its report. The government-appointed commission said he and other government officials repeatedly ignored the warnings of scientists, doctors, local public health officials and even the minister of long-term care.
More recently, Ford — despite repeatedly praising Williams throughout most of the pandemic — ignored Williams’ recommendation to reopen schools for the last month of the academic year, turning instead to dozens of public health experts, local health units and education stakeholders for advice.
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Sunday’s statement praised Williams’ involvement in implementing COVID-19 reopening plans, advocating for school-focused nurses and case and contact management.
“We are incredibly grateful for his experienced leadership at the helm of the province’s pandemic response to protect our communities from COVID-19 and its devastating impacts,” Elliott wrote.
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Meanwhile, Moore, who also serves on Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, will shadow Williams beginning on June 7.
Moore graduated with a medical degree from the University of Ottawa in 1985 and subsequently received specialty certifications in family medicine and emergency medicine. He also has master’s degrees in disaster medicine and in public health. Moore was named Kingston’s medical officer of health in 2017.
In his own statement, Moore said being considered for the new role was a “great honour.”
“I would remain steadfast in my commitment to fight COVID-19,” Moore said. “I would provide all necessary advice to the government to ensure the health and safety of all Ontarians.”
Dr. David Fisman, a professor at the University of Toronto and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, praised Moore’s appointment on Twitter Saturday evening.
“It’s hard to overstate what an excellent decision this is,” he wrote while thanking Ford.
Doris Grinspun, head of Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, who had been calling on Williams to be ousted, said she was delighted with Moore’s appointment, calling the choice “brilliant.”
New Democrat opposition Leader Andrea Horwath called it “fishy” another person in a COVID-19 leadership position was leaving before the pandemic was over. She noted former general Rick Hillier, initially in charge of the province’s vaccine rollout, left his post in March.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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