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Did politics muzzle a doctor who spoke out about the Ontario government's COVID-19 response?

The Hippocratic Oath is taken by physicians entering the medical profession. In part it reads:

I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.

In early 2020, just as the Coronavirus swept into Canada, Dr. Brooks Fallis became the Interim Medical Director of the Critical Care team at William Osler Health System in Brampton, Ont. Dr. Fallis was forced to confront what he says will probably be “my biggest challenge as a physician.” 

He embarked on a journey to care for his critically ill patients suffering from COVID-19 in the ICU, “the infirm” as the Oath calls them. He also committed himself to fulfil the Oath’s obligation to “all my fellow human beings.”

Dr. Fallis did that by doing media interviews when asked, writing opinion pieces and signing up on Twitter. As the pandemic worsened Dr. Fallis says he “felt this sort of moral obligation to speak out.” His target, time and again, was the strategy adopted by the Ontario government and Premier Doug Ford to contain COVID-19.

In early 2021 a new COVID strain, Alpha, was taking hold in Canada and Dr. Fallis believed the government did not recognize the urgency of the crisis at hand. He took to Twitter repeatedly calling out Premier Ford directly. He fired off this tweet on January 5, “The truth: Doug Ford has absolutely no clue what he’s doing.”

Two weeks later the hospital sent Dr. Fallis a letter terminating his leadership role. Dr. Fallis believes his advocacy was the cause. “I felt I’d been removed from the position because of political pressure and not because of my work,” he says.

On a video call with his bosses days after his termination notice the then Chief of Staff, Dr. Frank Martino, seemed to confirm Dr. Fallis’ impression. “There were comments made either on Twitter or comments made during interviews about government and about politicians.” Dr. Martino said.

Both the hospital and Premier Ford denied that there was political pressure on what both say was a Human Resource matter.

Dr. Fallis’s response? “I've never said that Doug Ford got me fired or asked for me to be fired. I've never said that. I've always just said that the hospital was experiencing pressure from the government to try to rein in the public commentary I was making.”

Today Dr. Fallis’ commitment to the Oath is firm. “People need to be able to feel like they can say things freely and criticize organizations or governments and not feel that they might face disciplinary action for that.” Top Stories

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