‘None of us are superhuman,’ says Public Health Agency of Canada president as she steps down amid pandemic

OTTAWA — The president of the Public Health Agency of Canada is stepping down as the country heads into the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tina Namiesniowski, who has been in the job only since May 2019, sent a letter to staff on Friday to say months of responding to the global health crisis has taken a personal toll on many people.

“Although we are very resilient, none of us are superhuman and I put myself in that category,” she wrote.

“I am now at the point where I need to take a break,” she said.

She said she does not want to leave the federal public health agency without leadership at such a crucial time.

“I feel I must step aside so someone else can step up,” she said, adding that it was a tough, but right, decision.

“You really need someone who will have the energy and the stamina to take the agency and our response to the next level,” she wrote. “And, even though I might not have accomplished everything I would have liked to have done, I truly hope the foundation for change I’ve championed through our work on PHAC of the future will help serve as a road map moving forward.”

She also thanked Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, for being a “rock” and says they’ve made “an exceptional team.”

Namiesniowski has been in the public service since 1989, having held senior jobs at the Canada Border Services Agency and Agriculture Canada and in the Privy Council Office.

Eric Morrissette, a Health Canada spokesman, said in an email that a replacement for Namiesniowski will be announced next week.

Namiesniowski says she will help with the transition and then take some time to spend with her husband, children and aging father as she thinks about what comes next.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2020.

The Canadian Press