Horacio Arruda resigns from his post of director of public health in Quebec

Public comments cast doubt on “the credibility of our recommendations and our scientific rigor,” he wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister.

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With COVID-19 hospital admissions at record levels fueled by the Omicron variant, Quebec’s director of public health resigned on Monday.

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In his resignation letter to Prime Minister François Legault, Dr Horacio Arruda said there had been recent public comments that cast doubt on “the credibility of our recommendations and our scientific rigor”. He said this had led to an “erosion of public cooperation”.

“In this context, I think it is appropriate to offer you the possibility of replacing me before the end of my mandate, at least as director of public health,” he wrote.

Prime Minister François Legault confirmed in a statement that he had received the letter and accepted the resignation. His office said it would not comment further on the matter until a press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday.

According to the media, Luc Boileau, president of the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services, would replace Arruda as director of public health. The Prime Minister’s Office declined to confirm this information.

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“For nearly 12 years, I served Quebec as the National Director of Public Health,” Arruda wrote in her letter. “I gave the best of myself, with the baggage and experience that I have. Along with my colleagues, over the past two years we have fought tirelessly to minimize the impact of this terrible COVID-19 pandemic. “

He said he would continue to “serve my fellow citizens as an actor in public health, but that I would be willing to do so in another role.”

Arruda has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks, especially his early reaction to the arrival of the Omicron variant, which is now spreading rapidly in Quebec.

Last week, the COVID-Stop group highlighted to QUB Radio 15 the contradictions Arruda has made since the start of the pandemic, including telling people that washing their hands is more effective than wearing a mask. . The group noted that wearing a mask was initially not recommended in long-term care homes.

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Health Minister Christian Dubé was asked on Monday in an interview with 98.5 FM radio station whether he still trusted Arruda.

Dubé defended Arruda, saying he had done “a great job”.

He added, “Dr. Arruda did his best for 22 months in the army. It’s difficult for Dr. Arruda. I see him several times a week. It’s very difficult for him at the moment.

Legault had expressed his confidence in Arruda no later than December 30, affirming that he was giving good advice and that Quebec was doing well “partly thanks to Dr Arruda”.

Opposition parties quickly called Arruda a scapegoat and blamed the government for the pandemic failures.

Reacting to the news on Twitter, opposition leader Dominique Anglade thanked Arruda for his service.

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“(The pandemic) has forced him to put his life and family aside for all of us, and for that we thank him,” she said.

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Anglade added that Arruda should not be blamed for the current situation, as he only made recommendations; it was the Prime Minister who made the wrong decisions.

“(Legault) will try to blame Arruda, but his departure will not solve anything,” she added. “Decisions are made by the Prime Minister and should be based on science, rather than polls and his own gut feeling. “

Quebec solidaire parliamentary leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said Quebec’s health care system has been “neglected and underfunded for too long. Throughout this pandemic, (Arruda) served Quebec with sincerity. It was the CAQ government that made the decisions.

Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said Arruda “sacrificed himself for bad government decisions,” including the lack of scientists on Legault’s crisis management team.

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“Under very difficult circumstances, (Arruda) gave his best, and we have to thank him.”

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Last year, Arruda faced tough questions from Quebec coroner Géhane Kamel in her inquest into how the pandemic hit long-term care homes across the province.

He was asked about the first directives to isolate healthcare workers, the decision to ban caregivers from CHSLDs and the initial decision not to impose the use of N95 masks – all of which appear to have played a role in the impact of the pandemic on households.

Arruda was also criticized for what has been called deaf action when he danced in a music video to a song by Quebec rapper Rod le Stod.

“I never intended to offend anyone,” Arruda said, her voice broken, during a press briefing. The rapper asked Arruda to submit a video, but Arruda said he believed it would only be shared on the rapper’s personal Facebook page. The song is called “Ode to Horacio Arruda”.

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First appointed national director of public health in 2012 after having worked for the agency since 2000, Arruda was one of the first at the scene of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster in 2013, and he put in the evacuation of the population sets in motion like a dangerous cloud. poison hung over their homes.

The only child of Portuguese immigrants who arrived in Quebec in 1960, Arruda’s father, Bento, was a rural worker. Her mother was a domestic worker who did not speak French.

But the young Arruda was passionate about health and more particularly epidemics like the one that Quebec is experiencing with COVID-19. He obtained his medical degree in 1983 at the University of Sherbrooke before obtaining a certificate in community and preventive medicine in 1988. Arruda is the father of three children and lives in Laval.

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Arruda made his way through the hearts of Quebecers at the start of the pandemic, with light speeches during dark times. He shared his recipe for Portuguese pies, known as natas. He urged Quebecers trapped at home to be creative with their time, to read, to listen to music. He said that every day he kept a different theme song in his head to relieve his stress.

He revealed one particular day that the theme song is the humorous one of French singer Philippe Katerine: La banane.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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