Pubdate: Thu, 25 Jan 2018
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2018 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Camille Bains
Page: A8


British Columbia's first provincial health officer is resigning after
nearly 20 years on a job he calls "incredibly rewarding."

Perry Kendall, who declared a public health emergency in 2016 over the
province's overdose crisis, will be leaving his post at the end of the
month, when the deputy health officer will fill the position.

Dr. Kendall has described the opioid epidemic as B.C.'s most
devastating health issue because of the high number of deaths from
fentanyl, which is cut into street drugs.

The latest figures from the B.C. Coroners Service recorded 1,208 fatal
overdoses between January and October this past year. Fentanyl was
detected in 999 of the confirmed and suspected deaths during that
time, an increase of 136 per cent from the same period in 2016.

"I've worked with, reported to, a series of ministers of health," Dr.
Kendall told a news conference on Wednesday. "I think they've all been
individuals who cared for the health of the population, and who, while
they may not always have agreed with or appreciated my analyses or my
recommendations, they did respect the independence of the office and
gave my recommendations due consideration."

Dr. Kendall was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 2005 for his
contributions to public health and harm-reduction practice including
the distribution of needles. He was at the helm of prevention policies
for AIDS and HIV, which spread through drug users sharing needles,
especially in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

He was also among those who called for a supervised injection site in
the city and championed the use of medical-grade heroin to treat
addiction as Vancouver became the first city in North America to adopt
a European model aimed at reducing overdose deaths.

Dr. Kendall's departure will cap a career of more than 40 years in
public health, which included health-officer positions in Toronto and

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix called him "one of the most
extraordinary public servants the province has ever had."

Mr. Dix said Dr. Kendall's report in 2002 on Indigenous health played
a role in creating the First Nations Health Authority, still the only
one of its kind in Canada.

Bonnie Henry, who has been B.C.'s deputy public health officer since
2014, said she has "very big shoes to fill in following Dr. Kendall."
Making good health care more equitable among Indigenous communities as
well as children and youth will underline her work, Dr. Henry said.
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