According to new auditor general findings, the Public Health Agency of Canada, PHAC was unprepared for the pandemic. They did not adequate respond to its early days. The agency underestimated the impact of COVID-19 and did not adapt to changes fast enough.
Actions of the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and PHAC influenced the government. Specifically, the how they applied and followed up the border restrictions. It impacted federal government’s effort to control the spread of the virus.
Karen Hogan, auditor general, noted significant weak points. The agencies had problems in managing the pandemic during the first six months of its onset in Canada.
Following her latest reports, Hogan stated: “We will never be able to tell Canadians what would have happened if the preparedness issues had been better addressed before the pandemic hit and if all plans had been updated and tested as they needed to be. Perhaps the government’s pandemic response would have been different.”
PHAC was Unprepared for Early Days of Pandemic
The audit reviewed the agencies’ response from January of 2020 up until June of the same year. It includes interviews with departmental and federal officials, reviews official meeting minutes, explains internal processes, and analyses available data.
The most crucial finding that the two main preparedness plans by PHAC were significantly outdated by the time the pandemic began. They had not updated the plan since 2016.
In response to the findings, Health Minister Patty Hajdu stated: “Every country… is going to be reviewing lessons learned, and there will be a full review of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the government’s response as a whole, but I can confidently tell you that Dr. Tam and the entire Public Health Agency of Canada, knew that this was a health threat to Canadians and knew that we needed to begin our preparations… and that is exactly what happened.”
Over time, the federal health agency managed to correct its actions and support Canada through the unprecedented health crisis.