Top Ottawa doctor leaving hospital post to treat homeless
Published Sunday, October 29, 2017 10:00PM EDT
The Ottawa Hospital Network’s top doctor is taking the fight against opioids to the streets, as he gears up to leave his cushy executive post to work with the city’s homeless population.
Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, 67, says he has no plans to retire – especially not with Canada facing a growing epidemic of fentanyl and carfentanil-related overdoses. Instead, he’s decided to leave his post as chief of staff at the Ottawa Hospital so he can spend more time treating the homeless at city shelters.
“I would love Canadians to put me out of work,” he told CTV News. “I would love for Canadians to address some of those root causes that led people to be homeless in the first place.”
Dr. Turnbull was a key figure in establishing many of Ottawa’s healthcare programs for the homeless. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 2007, and has continued to make time for drop-in visits to Ottawa’s homeless shelters. He says he’s leaving his $550,000 salary at the hospital so he has more time for those drop-in shelter visits.
Dr. Turnbull hopes he can fight the good fight against the opioid crisis, which has escalated rapidly in recent months.
“In June and July we had four overdoses. In August we had 38. Now we’re getting about 4-6 a day,” he said. “We are just trying to keep people alive.”
Dr. Turnbull has been working with Ottawa Inner City Health (OICH), a non-profit organization that provides health care to the homeless. OICH provides harm reduction and palliative care, among other services.
OICH also runs a diversion program, which reroutes homeless individuals who are intoxicated from hospital emergency departments to rooms at the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter.
Dr. Turnbull said working with the homeless has been incredibly rewarding, and he’s looking forward to more of it in the future.
“I find this a very engaging population. They’re thoughtful and kind and compassionate,” he said. “They show courage every day.”
With a report from CTV’s medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip