From the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Kandola, the NWT’s chief public health officer, has said she would not identify a small community if it has a confirmed case of COVID-19.
And she stuck to that, even though a case has been confirmed in a small community, whose identity has been spread on Facebook, in the media by community residents and even confirmed by an MLA.
That led to a somewhat bizarre situation where everyone participating in an April 4 news conference – Kandola, Premier Caroline Cochrane, Health and Social Services Minister Diane Thom, and indeed all those listening online and on CBC – knew the case was in Fort Resolution, but the name of the community was never spoken.
We suspect that was out of respect for Kandola and the other government officials.
In such an unusual situation, we are trying to understand why Kandola is sticking to her guns on this when keeping the name of an impacted community secret is obviously quite hopeless.
In this Information Age – more specifically in the NWT, the Facebook Age – people will spread the word faster than a picture of their latest meal. That’s just a fact.
People simply want to know if their community or some other community has a case of COVID-19, and that does not seem unreasonable. This is a pandemic, after all, and information for the public is one way to fight it.
We understand and appreciate the right to personal confidentiality in medical matters.
The Hub, and we can confidently say no reporter in the entire Northern News Services family, would identify an individual as having a certain medical condition, unless that person has agreed to be identified.
We believe that medical confidentiality and the right for a community to know that COVID-19 is in its midst are not mutually exclusive. The confidentiality of a patient can be protected, at least in the media, and the community can be identified.
We admire consistency, especially when it comes to the NWT’s chief public health officer or any medical professional. Kandola is no doubt acting in what she believes is the right and professional way.
As much as we respect Kandola, and recognize and praise the efforts she is making to fight the spread of COVID-19 in the NWT, we cannot agree with her on not identifying a small community once the disease arrives there.
We believe people have a right to know. More importantly, the people – if we can be so bold as to speak for everyone else – believe that they have a right to know.
We’ll say it again, we don’t think that is a breach of medical confidentiality.
Of course, there is no need to get too upset about the official decision not to identify small communities with COVID-19. As the case in Fort Resolution has shown, the public will almost instantly become aware of all communities where the disease arrives.
So Kandola can stick to her principles, but the public will still know where and when COVID-19 has spread in the NWT.
There is really nothing she can do about that.