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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sandor Demeter

Transparency - Essential for Buy In

We are in the second, and probably not the last, wave of the COVID roller coaster and the following excuse for not releasing more detailed information to the public continues to be propagated: “Information is released if needed for public safety” (paraphrased).

When states impose limitations on individuals’ rights and freedoms, especially when there is socio-economic collateral damage, the sharing of information goes beyond - “if needed for public safety”. People need to have confidence in those in power who impose such orders and one way to achieve such is to release sufficient information to justify Public Health and Emergency orders.

I agree that releasing information identifying individuals, or potentially stigmatizable groups, needs to be avoided, and in this case I agree with current messaging, unless there is a compelling evidence that the public is a risk.

However, there is a wide gulf between releasing such detailed information and what is currently being released.

For example, there has been no systematic ongoing release of cumulative information about where people are getting infected (i.e. source of transmission). If individuals knew the evolving breakdown of disease transmission (e.g. worksites, acute care, PCH, community, “house parties”, unknown etc.) it would help individuals make better risk aversion decisions, especially if they were convinced that current public health orders made sense given the provided data.

Cynically, I continue to worry that public health is so overwhelmed and under resourced that they may not be able to adequately collect, provide, and package this information to the public in a timely or meaningful manner.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) Public Health in MB received only 7.1% of total health care spending (2019) which may present “surge capacity” challenges when compared to the acute care sector.

Another example that continues to raise its ugly head is the unwillingness of the government, current and previous, to release provincial personal care home (PCH) inspection reports. This issue has again arisen in the press in that PCHs will not proactively notify families (and residents?) that they are under provincial investigation unless asked. PCH home residents, by nature of their living arrangements, average age and health status, are the highest risk group for contracting and dying from COVID. Time to move beyond this impasse and release the reports!

I again note the irony that the prior Minister of Health, Cameron Friesen, who was appointed Minister of Justice and Attorney General on January 5, 2021, criticized the NDP about this matter when he was the health critic in 2013. Both parties have aptly demonstrated the fine art of kicking the can down the road.

Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, or syringe as it may be, we are going to be on this roller coaster for most of 2021 and there is always room for improvement.

Anything that helps people make smart choices in strategically reducing the spread of COVID until there is sufficient “population” immunity should be welcomed. Transparent, and proactive, release of applicable information is one such strategy.

As COVID fatigue, and socio-economic hardships, rise compliance will go down with each successive wave if shutdowns. Shame and blame strategies only go so far, especially when politicians and senior administrators appear to be flaunting the very public health orders they insist the masses follow.

"A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity." --Dalai Lama

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