Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s public health chief, taking leave of absence for medical treatment after being diagnosed with a brain tumour last week.) In the first quarter of 2014, when Dr. Eileen de Villa took a leave of absence to be with her family after being diagnosed with a glioblastoma – a brain tumour type that is highly aggressive and has a median survival time of about two years – she was described by Ontario’s chief medical officer as being a good friend to her family.
If it were left to Dr. de Villa, the Toronto health ministry would have been better served not by her departure, but by the fact that she chose to step down. No doubt, Toronto’s health unit was left wanting a more confident, clear voice when it comes to policy and priorities.
“The ministry of health was never in a position to really hold Dr. de Villa accountable, to know what was happening with Dr. de Villa’s health, what was going on,” says Dr. David Himmel from the Toronto Centre for Applied Health Research and Policy.
“The ministry of health was always trying to do that, of course, but really it wasn’t the decision of that office to take her up on it,” he adds. “I don’t believe it was the decision of the health ministry.”
Now we need a new approach and a new health minister
But this is where the minister of health needs to change what “he means” by “effective and accountable.” The way he is now acting is not what’s needed in the health ministry.
If the minister of health wants to do a better job of keeping his office accountable, he needs to put more pressure on the bureaucracy and on himself.
It’s fine that Dr. de Villa has stepped down; leaving this critical position vacant for a month or two was