The federal government has named a new chief public health officer to fill a job left vacant for the last 15 months.
Dr. Gregory Taylor, already acting head of the Public Health Agency of Canada, became Canada’s top doctor Wednesday, a move cautiously welcomed by opposition politicians.
More than 2,800 people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Nigeria since the outbreak began earlier this summer. About 5,800 cases have been reported, but it’s believed many more cases exist in parts of those countries where medical workers cannot go.
The virus has severely taxed healthcare services in the hardest-hit countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Individuals with treatable diseases like malaria have had difficulty seeing a doctor, and some have died as a result.
“We have to scale up the treatment beds,” said Steve Cornish, a spokesperson for Medecin San Frontieres. “There are not enough doctors or nurses locally to do this, so we have to get teams from outside.”
MSF says Canada has been one of the most supportive countries for the healthcare effort in West Africa.
But that hasn’t always been the case, according to Carolyn McAskie, former assistant secretary general at the United Nations. McAskie says the Harper government missed its chance to strengthen Sierra Leone’s infrastructure in 2011, when it failed to follow up on a UN commitment to bring aid to the country.
McAskie says Canada committed to helping Sierra Leone, but “did nothing.”