Toronto Public Health’s vice-chair responds to backlash over Sun column about COVID-19, says her only aim was to ‘promote discourse’
A few weeks after Toronto Public Health (TPH) issued a statement on June 1, 2019, in response to a column in the Toronto Sun by health columnist Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a local resident was hit with another unexpected consequence of a controversial column in her local newspaper. During a news conference in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Toronto Councillor Janet Davis shared a personal letter she received from Hill, published May 13, 2019, in which he suggested that he was not surprised Toronto Public Health had released a statement. Councillor Davis then shared a response from one of the city’s former chief medical officer of health.
In his response, Dr. William Schaffner suggested that Hill was out of line for writing an unbalanced column about the virus which has spread to more than 800 people in Toronto in recent weeks. In his email to Davis, Schaffner wrote that he was also “out of line” for suggesting a link between the virus and the death of Toronto resident Dr. Michael Gardiner, a former medical officer of health for Toronto. At the news conference, Schaffner said Gardiner and other Toronto health care workers should be held accountable for the mistakes they have made as a society and a government.
In a June 16 interview with the Star, Hill said he felt he had been targeted, but he had never expected to provoke a conflict with the city.
“My intentions were to create a dialogue about the science (on COVID-19),” Hill told the Star.
He wanted to “promote discourse” about the virus, he said, “and how we can get our priorities right,” he said, adding that while he does not support the anti-vaccine movement, “that’s a different discussion.”
Hill went on to describe a day in mid-May last year when he went to the hospital. “I visited Michael Gardiner’s room,” he said. “I took his pulse. I took his temperature. (Gardiner) was ill (but) not on the verge of death.”
Asked about the incident this week, Hill said: “My intent (at the time)