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Director of public health: a position that is not restful

The Dr Luc Boileau, appointed on an interim basis to replace Dr Horacio Arruda, will need composure and a foolproof shell to occupy the prestigious post, but also daredevil, of interim national director of public health.

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“It takes a lot of courage to work in this environment,” said the former Minister for Health, David Levine.

Especially since the task that awaits the former president of the National Institute of Excellence in Health and Social Services (INESS) promises to be even more difficult than at the start of the pandemic.

“At the time, there were fewer political and electoral issues. The population was not yet frustrated, almost in revolt against the pandemic, ”believes the retired health manager.

Endless criticism

The past 22 months have not been easy for Dr Arruda.

It is also the incessant criticisms and the media exposure that have worn him down, argued Prime Minister François Legault, to justify his resignation the day before.

The colorful official will take a deserved leave before returning to the Ministry of Health, he said.

He will keep his position of Assistant Deputy Minister and the same remuneration.

Everything seems to indicate that the Dr Boileau, appointed on an interim basis, will be in office at least long enough to overcome this fifth wave of coronavirus infections.

When the time comes, the process for appointing his successor will be overseen by the Secretariat for Senior Jobs, which will make its recommendation to the government.

Québec solidaire asked yesterday that this future appointment be endorsed by two-thirds of the deputies, as is the case for the director of the Sûreté du Québec, for example. François Legault did not want to comment on this possibility.

More independent

Moreover, several observers consider that the time has come to separate the role of the national director of public health from that of assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Health.

” [Le directeur] should wear only one hat, that of scientist, so that we can distinguish public health advice from parliamentary decisions, ”said Dr Mauril Gaudreault, President of the College of Physicians.

The College would also like to see the opinions of Public Health “made public and clearly communicated”.

Others dream of seeing the next director give separate press briefings and be advised by a team of independent experts.

“These people are not afraid to displease, to bring bad news, or to say that what we have at the moment does not work”, supports the independent analyst of public policies, Patrick Déry.

At a press conference, Mr. Legault, however, put a stop to these enthusiasm.

DD Mylène Drouin

Director of public health: a position that is not restful

Archive photo, Chantal Poirier

Regional Director of Public Health from Montreal


The proactivity of Dr. Mylène Drouin, head of Public Health in Montreal, has been greatly welcomed by analysts since the start of the pandemic. His candidacy is supported by several Montreal physicians. In an interview with Radio-Canada yesterday, she did not deny her interest in the post.


The government may prefer to use its talents in the metropolis, which has often been the epicenter of the pandemic in Quebec. Paradoxically, the Montreal public health department offers more freedom than the same position at the provincial level, notes a source.

DD Joanne liu

Director of public health: a position that is not restful

Emergency pediatrician


Pediatrician, leading figure and former international president of Médecins sans frontières, Joanne Liu has an impressive track record in managing natural disasters and the Ebola epidemic. Many would like to see it play an active role in the management of the pandemic in Quebec, whereas it has been ruled out in the past.

Yesterday the DD Liu wrote to the Journal preferring to “let the dust settle” after the departure of Dr Arruda, without confirming or denying that such a position would interest him.


The Act respecting health services and social services indicates that the national director of public health must be a specialist in community health.

Dr Luc Boileau

Director of public health: a position that is not restful

Archive photo, QMI Agency

Former President of the National Institute of Excellence in health and social services


Few other candidates could have replaced the Dr Arruda off the cuff as he did. Depending on his handling of the next wave, the government could offer him the job for the longer term.


Perhaps he was asked to take over from Dr Arruda only to put out fires while waiting for the pandemic to stabilize.

Dr Alain Poirier

Director of public health: a position that is not restful

Regional Director of public health of Eastern Townships


He was the predecessor of Dr Horacio Arruda as National Director of Public Health from 2003 to 2012. He holds this position on an interim basis in Estrie.


After a 35-year career in public health, Dr.r Poirier told station 107.7 Estrie two weeks ago that he had a “verbal engagement with another project”, without specifying its nature.

Dr Richard Massé

Director of public health: a position that is not restful

Archive photo, Pierre-Paul Poulin

Former medical advisor strategic at the general direction of public health


Long considered the right arm of Dr Arruda, he could be one of his logical successors. He also served as National Director of Public Health from 1998 to 2003.


The Dr Massé left his post as medical advisor last August due to health problems, Radio-Canada reported. He nevertheless planned to continue working on certain files at the ministry.

Yesterday, late in the evening, however, he confirmed in writing to the Journal that he did not wish to return to his duties as national director.

– With Marc-André Gagnon