Transcript: SARS Team Reflects | Mar 20, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a black suit, white shirt, and gray plaid tie.

A caption on screen reads "Lessons learned from SARS. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says IF, AND WE STRESS "IF." ONTARIO IS DOING BETTER THAN OTHER JURISDICTIONS IN THE WORLD IN FIGHTING THE COVID-19 VIRUS IT MAY BE BECAUSE OF LESSONS LEARNED 17 YEARS AGO. THAT'S WHEN A DIFFERENT VIRUS... SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY SYNDROME OR SARS... ATTACKED ONTARIO. 44 PEOPLE DIED. WE'VE INVITED FOUR PEOPLE TO JOIN US WHO WERE DEEPLY INVOLVED IN THE POLITICAL DECISIONS OF THAT TIME. AND WHO MAY BE ABLE TO GIVE US SOME INSIGHT ON HOW THE PROVINCE IS HANDLING COVID-19 TODAY. WITH THAT WE WELCOME IN PORT SYDNEY, ONTARIO, VIA SKYPE, TONY CLEMENT, WHO WAS ONTARIO'S MINISTER OF HEALTH DURING SARS...

Tony is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short gray hair. He's wearing rounded glasses and a gray sweater.

Steve continues IN St. CATHERINES, VIA SKYPE, KRISTINA GENTES WHO WAS SENIOR HEALTH POLICY ADVISOR TO PREMIER ERNIE EVES...

Kristina is in her late forties, with auburn hair in a short bob. She's wearing a dark floral print shirt and a pendant necklace.

Steve continues IN SEBRINGVILLE, VIA FACE TIME, MIKE McCARTHY WHO WAS A SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR IN MINISTER CLEMENT'S OFFICE...

Mike is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short brown hair. He's wearing glasses, a gray suit and a black shirt.

Steve continues AND VIA SKYPE FROM TORONTO, PAUL CANTIN WHO WAS PRESS SECRETARY TO THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AT THE TIME....

Paul is in his fifties, clean-shaven, with short white hair. He's wearing glasses and a black sweater.

Steve continues AND IT'S GOOD TO HAVE ALL FOUR OF YOU ON THE PROGRAM TONIGHT. AS WE'VE BEEN SAYING ALL WEEK LONG NONE OF YOU IS HERE IN THE STUDIO YOU ARE FROM POINTS BEYOND BECAUSE WE'RE NOT HAVING ANY GUESTS IN THE STUDIO WE'RE TRYING TO PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING AND Mr. MCCARTHY, SIR, EVERY TIME YOU APPEAR ON THE PROGRAM WE DO HAVE TO 10th OUT WHO'S YOUR BUSINESS PARTNER?

Mike says YOUR LOVELY WIFE.

Steve says AND SHE WORKED IN MINISTER CLEMENT'S OFFICE AS WELL. LET'S GET STARTED. TONY TELL US HOW YOU HEARD ABOUT SARS ALL THOSE YEARS BACK.

The caption changes to "Tony Clement. Former Minister of Health."
Then, it changes again to "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome."

Tony says I WAS ON A SKI HOLIDAY IN ONTARIO. I THINK IT WAS AT HIDDEN VALLEY OR SOMEWHERE LIKE THAT WITH MY FAMILY. AND I GOT A CALL FROM Dr. COLIN DI CUNA WHO WAS THE CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH AT THE TIME. AND IT WAS... I WOULDN'T SAY INNOCUOUS. BUT IT WAS MINISTER, THERE'S SOMETHING STRANGE GOING ON. THERE ARE SOME CASES OF PERHAPS A NEW VIRUS. WE'RE NOT SURE WHAT IT IS YET. BUT WE'LL KEEP YOU POSTED. NOW, SARS DIDN'T EVEN HAVE A NAME THEN. AND IT WAS BASICALLY KEEPING ME UP TO DATE WITH SOMETHING THAT WAS GOING ON IN ONTARIO'S HOSPITALS I BELIEVE IN THE SCARBOROUGH HOSPITAL AT THE TIME. AND SO BY THE TIME I GOT BACK INTO THE OFFICE BECAUSE THAT WAS ON A WEEKEND WE KNEW WE HAD SOMETHING BIG. AND I REMEMBER AT THE TIME THE INSTITUTIONAL REFLECTION WHICH I BELIEVE WE'VE SEEN ONCE AGAIN HERE IN CANADA WAS THIS IS LOW RISK TO THE POPULATION, LET'S NOT EXPRESS ANY MAJOR CONCERN AND I REMEMBER MY INSTANT REACTION AT THE TIME WAS THIS SOUNDS BIGGER THAN JUST A NORMAL THING. MAYBE WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT IT. SO THAT'S HOW THE BALL GOT ROLLING IN MY RECOLLECTION.

Steve says LET'S TAKE IT NOW WE'LL TAKE THAT BALL IF YOU LIKE AND CONTINUE THE METAPHOR AND GO INTO THE PREMIER'S OFFICE. KRISTINA, WHEN IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THIS THING WAS GOING TO BE, AS TONY SUGGESTED, BIGGER THAN EVERYBODY THOUGHT, AS THE HEALTH LEAD, I GUESS IN THE PREMIER'S OFFICE, WHAT WERE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AT THE TIME AND WHAT DID YOU DO?

The caption changes to "Kristina Gentes. Former Senior Health Policy Advisor to Premier."

Kristina says AS TONY WAS SAYING, ONCE WE HAD SORT OF HEARD THAT THIS WAS BECOMING A BIT MORE OF AN ISSUE... AND IT'S LARGELY HOSPITAL TRANSMISSION... SORRY, GUYS DIM' REALLY CHOPPY, IS THAT WHAT YOU'RE HEARING?

Steve says IT'S NOT BAD HERE, ACTUALLY.

Kristina says I WON'T WORRY ABOUT IT, THEN.

Steve says NOT A PROBLEM AT ALL. I'LL TEE IS UP AGAIN AND YOU CAN TAKE OVER. ONE SHOULD REALIZE THIS IS MORE THAN WHAT YOU THOUGHT... ONCE YOU REALIZED THIS IS WAS MORE THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE WHAT WAS YOUR POSITION IN THE PREMIERS OFFICE AS HEALTH ADVISOR?

Kristina says I THINK AS TONY SAID ONCE WE REALIZED IT WAS GOING TO BE MORE OF AN ISSUE THAT WE WERE GOING TO HAVE TO ADDRESS MY ROLE IN THE BEGINNING WAS LARGELY TO KEEP THE PREMIER INFORMED OF WHAT WAS GOING ON. AND MAKE SURE THAT THE MINISTER HAD ALL THAT HE NEEDED, ALL THE RESOURCES THAT HE NEEDED TO SORT OF GEAR UP FOR WHAT WE HAD TO DO, WHAT WAS COMING.

Steve says TO THAT END, Ernie EVES VERY QUICKLY HAD A PRESS CONFERENCE AND HERE IS SOME OF WHAT HE HAD SO SAY AT THE TIME. SHELDON, IF YOU WORKS LET'S ROLL THAT CLIP.

A clip plays on screen with the caption "April 27, 2003."

In the clip, Ernie Eves gives a press conference.

He says THE FIRST I'M GIVING LOST WAGES TO ONTARIANS BECAUSE THEY'VE BEEN ASKED TO GO TO QUARANTINE WILL BE FULLY COMPENSATED. FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES WILL NOT BE AN IMPEDIMENT I AM AND PEOPLE WILL NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN DOING THE RIGHT THING AND PUTTING FOOD ON THE TABLE. SECOND, STARTING TODAY, THE GOVERNMENT WILL PROVIDE 25 MILLION dollars TO GTA HOSPITALS TO ADDRESS SURGICAL BACKLOGS CAUSED BY SARS. THIRD, OUR GOVERNMENT WILL COMMIT 10 MILLION dollars TOWARDS THE FIRST PHASE OF AN AGGRESSIVE WORLDWIDE MARKETING CAMPAIGN TO PROMOTE TORONTO AND ONTARIO AS A SAFE TRAVEL DESTINATION.

The clip ends.

Steve says MIKE McCARTHY, SOME OF THAT SOUNDS EERILY REMINISCENT TO THINGS WE'VE HEARD FROM THE CURRENT PRIME MINISTER, THE CURRENT HEALTH MINISTER, THE CURRENT HEALTH MINISTER OF ONTARIO. SO ONCE THIS THING HITS WHAT'S YOUR JOB IN THE MINISTER OF HEALTH'S OFFICE?

The caption changes to "Mike McCarthy. Former Senior Policy Advisor to Ontario Minister of Health."

Mike says MY JOB WAS TO KEEP THE MINISTER INFORMED OF OPERATIONS THAT WERE OCCUR ON THE GROUND. I WAS LEE AS ON WITH THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH IN THE EMERGENCY RESPONSE CENTRE AND WORKING WITH ALL THE SCIENTISTS TO ENSURE THAT THE MINISTER HAD ALL THE INFORMATION BEFORE HIM SO HE COULD REPORT UP TO THE PREMIER DIRECTLY TO ENSURE THAT ALL THE RESOURCES WOULD BE MADE AVAILABLE FOR THE HEALTH SYSTEM TO ACT QUICKLY AND RESPOND TO THE CRISIS.

Steve says AND, OF COURSE, JUST LIKE COVID-19 IS THE CASE NOW, THAT WAS A STORY 17 YEARS AGO THAT WAS CHANGING HOUR TO HOUR TO HOUR. HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT FOR YOU TO KEEP YOUR MINISTER AND, THEREFORE, THE PREMIER AND THE GOVERNMENT APPRISED OF WHAT THE OPTIONS WERE AND WHERE THE STORY WAS HEADING?

Mike says IT WAS EVOLVING BY THE HOUR AS YOU SAY, STEVE. JUST AS IT IS NOW. IT WAS A TIME OF CONTROLLED CHAOS AND THE MINISTRY HAD NOT EXPERIENCED A PANDEMIC EMERGENCY TYPE OF SITUATION IN A VERY LONG TIME. AND SO SOME PLANS WERE DUSTED OFF. THERE WAS SOME PROTOCOLS THAT WERE IN PLACE TO DEAL WITH A PANDEMIC RESPONSE. HOWEVER, IT WAS CUMBERSOME AND BEGINNING TO GET EVERYBODY COORDINATED TO PUT PROTECTION IN PLACE. WE WERE DEALING WITH A VIRUS WITH NO TEST AT THE TIME. AND SO REALLY IT WAS TO SUPPORT HEALTH CARE WORKERS AT THE FRONT DOOR, OUR EMERGENCY CENTRES IN ONTARIO. AND MINISTER CLEMENT HAD TO ENSURE AND GIVE DIRECTION THAT RESOURCES WOULD BE AVAILABLE.

Steve says NOW, PAUL, YOU WERE THE COMMUNICATIONS GUY I GUESS SORT OF RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING SURE THAT EVERYBODY WAS SORT OF GETTING THE SAME MESSAGE OUT THERE AND THERE WAS NOT A LOT OF CONFLICT IN THAT. HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT DOING THAT?

The caption changes to "Paul Cantin. Former Minister of Health Press Secretary."

Paul says WELL, I THINK IT'S ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISIONS PEOPLE FROM THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH AND THE MINISTER, TONY MADE AT THE TIME WAS TO HAVE DAILY BRIEFINGS. WHERE CERTAINLY EVERY WEEK DAY ANY WAY FOR MONTHS WE HAD A BRIEFING AT THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH WHERE ALL THE MEDIA WERE ABLE TO COME IN. WE HAD ALL THE KEY PEOPLE AT THE FRONT OF THE ROOM, THE MINISTER, THE LEADS OF PUBLIC HEALTH FOR THE PROVINCE AND THE CITY OF TORONTO. ALSO INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERTS WHO REMEMBERED Dr. DON LOWE BECAME PRACTICALLY A LOCAL FOLK HERO BECAUSE OF HIS APPEARANCES ON THAT. AND HAVING EVERYONE TOGETHER AT THE SAME PLACE ANSWERING QUESTIONS IN REAL-TIME, I THINK WAS REALLY HELPFUL IN KEEPING MESSAGES ALIGNED AND IT WASN'T ALWAYS PERFECT. BUT THERE WAS OBVIOUSLY A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF CURIOSITY ABOUT THE DISEASE AND CONCERN FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. I STILL... BACK THEN I DIDN'T HAVE ANY DIGITAL MEANS TO KIND OF TRACK ALL THE INCOMING CALLS I HAD. I STILL HAVE WRITTEN SHEETS IN MY FILES DOWNSTAIRS OF SOME OF THOSE DAYS AND HOW MANY CALLS I WAS RETURNING FROM MEDIA ALL OVER THE WORLD AND THAT ON TOP OF BEING WITH THE MINISTER GOING TO DAILY BRIEFINGS RETURNING 60, 70 CALL AS DAY AND TRYING TO KEEP EVERYONE FED AND WATERED AS THEY SAY IN POLITICS.

The caption changes to "For news from around the province: tvo.org."

Steve says TONY, PAUL IS QUITE RIGHT. NOT EVERYTHING WAS PERFECT ABOUT T AND LET ME DRAW YOUR ATTENTION TO ONE OF THE THINGS. I THINK I DO RECALL YOU SAYING VERY EARLY IN THE PIECE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A BIG SARS SUMMIT HERE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE SECURITY PEOPLE, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE HEALTH EXPERTS AND PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD COME TO ONTARIO AND GIVE THEIR BEST ADVICE ON THINGS AND TO THE BEST OF MY RECOLLECTION THAT NEVER HAPPENED. SO WHAT WAS THAT WHOLE STORY ABOUT?

Tony says WELL, I CERTAINLY WE HAD SOME CONNECTIONS WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. BUT PEOPLE SHOULD REALIZE THERE WAS NO PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCY OF CANADA AT LEAST IN THE FORM THAT IT EXISTS NOW. AND SO WE WERE KIND OF BUILDING THE AIRPLANE WHILE FLYING IT AT THE SAME TIME. THAT'S... THAT WAS THE PANDEMIC RESPONSE TO SARS. AND AFTER SARS WAS FINALLY CONTAINED, THEN WE HAD ANOTHER CRISIS WHICH WAS THE BLACKOUT. THE GREAT BLACKOUT OF 2003. AND THEN THERE WAS A PROVINCIAL ELECTION. AND GUESS WHAT... ERNIE EVES DID NOT REMAIN PREMIER. SO, YOU KNOW, I THINK THERE'S A LOT OF LESSONS LEARNED. WE HAD THE CAMPBELL REPORT, OF COURSE. WHICH HAD A LONG LIST OF THE LESSONS LEARNED. AND I THINK THAT THOSE ARE STILL RELEVANT TODAY IN TERMS OF SURGE CAPACITY, IN TERMS OF ACCESS TO EQUIPMENT LIKE VENTILATORS, IN TERMS OF PROTECTING OUR PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONALS LIKE DOCTORS, NURSES AND PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS. THOSE ARE KIND OF TIMELESS RECOMMENDATIONS THAT ARE STILL VALID TODAY.

Steve says NOW, KRISTINA, AT SOME POINT, OBVIOUSLY PEOPLE FROM THE PREMIER AS OFFICE... AND GIVEN THAT ERNIE EVES WAS A FORMER MINISTER OF FINANCE HE WOULD HAVE BEEN, OF COURSE, HIGHLY ATTUNED TO THIS. PEOPLE FROM THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH, EVERYBODY HAD TO SIT DOWN AND FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH IT WAS GOING TO COST TO FIGHT ALL THIS. SO AT WHAT POINT DO YOU START HAVING CONVERSATIONS WITH THE MINISTRY OF FINANCE AND WITH THE PREMIER'S OFFICE ABOUT HOW YOU'RE GOING TO FUND ALL OF THE NEW THINGS THAT YOU WANT TO DO?

Kristina says YEAH, I THINK AS THE ISSUE WAS BECOMING MORE AND MORE PREVALENT, FROM A PREMIER'S OFFICE PERSPECTIVE WE WERE TRYING TO ENSURE THAT RESOURCES WERE THERE. AND WE NEEDED. AS IT IS TODAY. EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT COSTS NOT THE QUESTION AT THIS POINT WE NEED TO GET THROUGH THIS AND MAKE SURE WE MANAGE IT AS BEST WE CAN. AND THAT WAS OUR MAIN FOCUS OF DISCUSSIONS BETWEEN THE PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE AT THE TIME IN TERMS OF JUST MAKING SURE WE HAD THE RESOURCES. THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH HAD THE RESOURCES. I MEAN, THERE WERE A LOT OF THINGS GOING ON. ONE THING THAT WE DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT NOWADAYS IS THAT HAND SANITIZERS WEREN'T REALLY PREVALENT IN HOSPITALS AT THAT TIME. BUT DURING SARS THEY BECAME PREVALENT BECAUSE LARGELY IT WAS A HOSPITAL ISSUE, COMMUNICATING IT WAS COMMUNICABLE IN THE HOSPITAL. THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS WE HAVE TO DO REAL FAST.

Steve says MIKE MCCARTHY DO I REMEMBER THIS RIGHT YOU ARE A FORMER NURSE ARE YOU NOT?

Mike says I AM INDEED AND MY WIFE CURRENTLY WORKS IN AN ACUTE SETTING IN ONTARIO AND SO IT'S VERY CLOSE FOR US. PROTOCOLS TO KEEP THE COVID-19 AT BAY OUTSIDE OUR HOME. SO CHRISTINE DOESN'T BRING IT HOME AT THE END OF THE DAY NURSING TAKING CARE OF PEOPLE. AND AS A NURSE MYSELF, I HAD A SORT OF A MEDICAL VIEW OF WHAT WAS TAKING PLACE IN THE MINISTER'S OFFICE. AND, YOU KNOW, THE FOCUS FOR ME AT THE TIME WAS TO... I HAD SOME DIFFICULT TASKS. I HAD TO CALL MINISTER CLEMENT UP TO LET HIM KNOW EVERY DAY HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE ILL, HOW MANY PEOPLE HAD DIED OVERNIGHT. WHERE THEY WERE FROM. THESE WERE EXTRAORDINARY TIMES FOR US AT THE TIME. AND IT WAS A REALLY... YOU CAN FEEL THE TENSENESS OF WHAT WE WERE GOING THROUGH. AND IT'S BEING REPEATED TODAY. I CAN JUST FEEL THE KIND OF ANXIETY THAT I'M FEELING JUST WATCHING IT ALL OVER AGAIN BUT CERTAINLY IN THE DAY WE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THE END WAS GOING TO LOOK LIKE OTHER THAN WE WERE GOING TO DO EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO STOP IT AND HAVE THE KIND OF LEADERSHIP THAT WOULD BE CONVEYED TO THE PUBLIC THAT WE HAD IT UNDER CONTROL.

Steve says PAUL, HOW MUCH OF YOUR JOB DO YOU THINK WAS JUST TRYING TO KEEP A LID ON EVERYTHING AND KEEP EVERYBODY CALM?

Paul says I DON'T THINK OF IT AS KEEPING EVERYONE CALM. BECAUSE IN SOME CASES, THE URGENCY OF WHAT WAS REQUIRED OF PEOPLE TO CHANGE THEIR BEHAVIOUR AS YOU'RE SEEING NOW, REQUIRES PEOPLE TO HAVE A REALLY CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THEY'RE UP AGAINST. I WAS GOING TO ADD TO WHAT MIKE SAID ABOUT THE TENSION THAT I KNOW I WANT TO SAY OFF THE TOP THAT ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY EXPERIENCED SARS OR WAS WORKING ON THE FRONTLINE AS A HEALTH CARE WORKER OBVIOUSLY DIDN'T CARRY THE BRUNT OF THIS ANY MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE. BUT I CAN CERTAINLY SAY THAT FOR ALL OF US INVOLVED IN IT I DON'T THINK WE'LL HAVE A MORE STRESSFUL WORK SITUATION THAN WE HAD AT THE TIME. AND I KNOW MIKE, THERE WAS A COUPLE OF NIGHTS FOR SURE DURING THAT PERIOD WHERE AFTER A VERY LONG DAY, I MEAN PROBABLY GOING FROM ABOUT 5 IN THE MORNING TO ABOUT 10 OR 11 AT NIGHT AND FINALLY GETTING TO BED AT ABOUT 3 IN THE MORNING, MIKE WOULD CALL ME AND SAY WE'RE IN FOR A ROUGH RIDE TOMORROW BECAUSE ANOTHER NURSE IS SICK OR SOMETHING. THE SITUATION HAD TAKEN A WORSE TURN. AND THAT ALSO MADE IT VERY DIFFICULT TO GET BACK TO SLEEP AT NIGHT TO BE THINKING ABOUT WHAT WE WERE GOING TO HEAR ON THE RADIO WHEN THE ALARM CLOCK WENT OFF IN THE MORNING AND HOW ALL OF US, ALL OF OUR COLLEAGUES WERE GOING TO HAVE TO REACT. (INAUDIBLE) AS A TEAM. AND I THINK THAT THE ONE GREAT THING THAT COMES OUT OF THAT IS THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING PART OF A TEAM. AND WORKING SO WELL TOGETHER IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY. WE'RE STILL ALL FRIENDS AND STILL ALL COLLEAGUES. AND I UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE WHO'VE BEEN THROUGH WARS TOGETHER, YOU KNOW, GET TOGETHER AND TALK ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCE. BECAUSE THERE ARE VERY FEW PEOPLE WHO CAN REALLY RELATE TO WHAT IT IS TO GO THROUGH THAT.

Steve says TONY, I WONDER IF YOU WOULD FOLLOW UP ON THAT FROM THIS STANDPOINT. YOU WERE THE MINISTER OF HEALTH. IT WAS, IF YOU LIKE, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO END THIS THING. AND AS THE DEATH NOTICES KEPT COMING IN DAILY, YOU KNOW, WE'RE AT A COUPLE OF DEATHS IN THE ONTARIO TODAY FROM COVID-19. AND THERE IS ALREADY A LOT OF STRESS OUT THERE. YOU DEALT WITH ALMOST 4 DOZEN DEATHS 17 YEARS AGO. I WAND TO KNOW HOW MUCH PRESSURE YOU FELT EITHER SELF-MADE PRESSURE OR FROM THE PREMIER'S OFFICE TO SOLVE THIS.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Tony says YEAH, FIRST LET ME SAY THE PREMIER'S OFFICE WAS VERY COOPERATIVE AND I NEVER FELT ANY PRESSURE FROM THEM. AND IF THEY WERE EXERTING PRESSURE HID' JUST IGNORE IT AND DIDN'T WORRY ABOUT IT BECAUSE WE WERE IN A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY. AND I WANT TO ECHO WHAT PAUL SAID. I MEAN I WAS... I WAS DEFINITELY EXHIBITING STRESS. I LOST SOMETHING LIKE 25 POUNDS DURING THAT WHOLE PERIOD. BUT I'D ALWAYS KEPT IN MIND WHAT THE FRONTLINE WERE UP AGAINST. LIKE THE FRONTLINE NURSES AND DOCS AND PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. IF I WAS SUFFERING THEY WERE SUFFERING TEN-FOLD. SO THAT'S THE PERSPECTIVE THAT I HAD. AND, YEAH, WE WOKE UP EVERY MORNING. I'D WAKE UP EVERY MORNING AND I'D GET A REPORT ON WHO WAS SICK AND WHO HAD PASSED AWAY. AND HAD YOU TO SORT OF COMPARTMENTALIZE THAT AND GET ON WITH THE JOB. BUT ALSO YOU WERE GRIEVING. IT CREATED A DEFINITELY A PSYCHOLOGICAL SITUATION WITH EVERYBODY WHO WAS INVOLVED IN IT. AT THE SAME TIME, THERE WAS A SOLIDARITY. WE CALLED IT THE NEW NORMAL AT THE TIME THAT WE HAD TO DO EXTRAORDINARY THINGS. WE WERE ASKING PEOPLE TO DO EXTRAORDINARY THINGS TO CONTAIN THIS. I THINK WE HAD 10,000 PEOPLE IN QUARANTINE AT ONE POINT. SO THAT REQUIRED CALM AND IT REQUIRED A PLAN. AND IT REQUIRED US TO BE SEEN AS LEGITIMATE MESSENGERS OF EXTRAORDINARY REQUIREMENTS. AND THAT'S WHAT I WOULD SAY ABOUT TODAY WITH COVID-19. IT'S CRITICALLY IMPORTANT FOR PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU, PREMIER FORD, ALL OF THEIR TEAMS TO HAVE THE FAITH AND CONFIDENCE OF THE PUBLIC BECAUSE THEY'RE GOING TO ASK THEM TO DO THINGS THAT ARE OUTSIDE EVERYONE'S COMFORT ZONE. AND IF YOU LOSE THAT CONFIDENCE IT AIN'T GOOD. PEOPLE WILL JUST SAY WHY SHOULD I DO THAT IF YOU'RE DOING THIS. AND THAT'S A THING I WORRY ABOUT IS GOING TO MEDIUM TERM NOT TOMORROW OR NEXT WEEK. BUT IF WE'RE REQUIRED TO SELF ISOLATE FOR A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME, THAT'S WHEN THE SOCIAL COHESION STARTS TO FADE AWAY IN MY VIEW.

Steve says MIKE, LET ME ASK YOU AGAIN TO PUT YOUR MEMORY CAP ON FROM 17 YEARS AGO. GIVEN THAT THIS THING, SARS, WAS ATTACKING FRONT-LINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS FIRST AND FOREMOST, CAN YOU RECALL FOR US HOW MUCH OF AN ISSUE WAS IT FOR THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH THAT DOCTORS AND-OR NURSES WOULD CALL IN AND SAY "WE DON'T WANT TO DIE AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO WORK TODAY"? HOW MUCH OF THAT HAPPENED?

Mike says I THINK WE HAD MOST PEOPLE SHOW UP AND DO THEIR JOB. WHAT DID CONCERN US AT THE TIME WAS SOMEWHAT A DEFLECTION FROM THEIR ROLE WAS BECAUSE OF THE EMERGENCY AND THE FACT THAT THEY WERE ON THE FRONTLINE OF MORE DANGEROUS SITUATION, WE STARTED TO HAVE SOME NON-OPERATIONAL ISSUES LIKE THEY WANTED TO GET DANGER PAY. THIS IS THE UNIONS OF NURSES PILED ON PRESSURE THAT WE WANTED TO HAVE SOME MONETARY REWARD FOR WHAT WE WERE DOING. AND THAT WAS REALLY THE WRONG TIME FOR IT. WE ALSO HAD THE ONTARIO MEDICAL ASSOCIATION THAT WANTED TO NEGOTIATE THE REOPENER OF THEIR CONTRACT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SARS OUTBREAK AND THEY REFUSED TO STAND DOWN FROM THAT POSITION. AND WE HAD TO ACTUALLY DO THAT SIMULTANEOUSLY WITH OPERATIONALIZING AN EMERGENCY. THEY ALSO WANTED DOCTORS TO BE PAID FOR NOT WORKING, FOR NOT DOING FEE-FOR-SERVICE MODELS. AND THIS WAS A HUGE DISTRACTION FOR US AND ONE OF GREAT CONCERN AT THE TIME. AND ONE WHERE WE HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO FIX THOSE PROBLEMS IN THE SHORT TERM. AND CERTAINLY THEY WERE A NEGATIVE VOICE LEADING UP TO THE ELECTION BECAUSE WE FELT THEY WERE MISTREATED EVEN THOUGH WE BELIEVE AND THE RECORD SHOWS THAT IT WAS A HUGE EFFORT WITH EVERYBODY AND THE FRONTLINE PEOPLE DID THEIR JOBS. BUT CERTAINLY WE HAD, YOU KNOW, THIS HUGE CHALLENGE OF NOT HAVING THE COHESIVENESS WITH PUBLIC HEALTH UNITS ACROSS THE PROVINCE. THAT WE HAD MANDATED PROGRAMS WHERE MANY IN PUBLIC HEALTH DID NOT WANT TO STAND DOWN FROM OTHER PROGRAMS AND PUT THEIR PROFESSIONALS ON THE FRONTLINE FOR THE PUBLIC HEALTH ASPECT OF THE OUTBREAK. AND WE HAD TO DRAFT PEOPLE IN FROM OTHER JURISDICTIONS. SO THOSE WERE LESSONS WE WERE LEARNING ON THE GROUND IN TERMS OF IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH OUR CAREGIVERS ON THE GROUND, OUR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. AND I THINK HOPEFULLY WE'RE NOT GOING TO SEE A REPEAT OF THAT DURING THE COVID-19. WE'LL GET TO THOSE PROBLEMS AFTER THIS IS SOLVED.

Steve says PAUL CANTIN, YOU TOOK SOME PICTURES AT THE TIME AND I'D LIKE SHELDON OSMOND OUR DIRECTOR JUST TO ROLL THROUGH SOME OF THOSE RIGHT NOW. AS THEY COME UP MAYBE YOU COULD JUST REMIND US OF WHAT WE'RE SEEING HERE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF IT. GO AHEAD.

Pictures appear briefly on screen.
The first shows Tony and Paul sitting at a table with other officials, preparing to give a press conference.
The second shows them leaving a room as the press swarms around them.
The third shows them walking out a revolving door as a woman smiles.

Paul says WELL, I SHOULD SAY I DIDN'T TAKE THESE PICTURES I JUST REMEMBER GRABBED THEM AT THE TIME FROM OTHER SOURCES. SO I CAN'T CLAIM CREDIT FOR THEM. BUT THIS IS IN GENEVA AT THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION JUST MOMENTS AFTER IT HAD BEEN ANNOUNCED THAT THE TRAVEL BAN HAD BEEN LIFTED ON TORONTO. YOU MAY RECALL THAT TORONTO WAS SORT OF PUT ON THAT LIST OF CITIES. THERE WE ARE JUST LEAVING THE MEETING LOOKING PRETTY GRIM. THAT'S SERGIO MARCHI IN THE FRONT WHO WAS THE CHEF DE MISSION FOR THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. I CAN'T RECALL HIS TITLE PRECISELY. BUT THAT'S GOING THROUGH THE MEDIA SCRUM OUTSIDE THE BUILDING. THIS IS WITH ANNE McCLELLAN JUST AFTER LEAVING THE HEPBURN BLOCK WITH A MEETING WITH THE TWO OF THEM AS WELL. THE TRIP TO GENEVA I THINK IN PARTICULAR WAS A PRETTY MEMORABLE ONE. BECAUSE THE DESIGNATION OF TORONTO AS A NO-TRAVEL AREA WAS DEVASTATING FOR THE ECONOMY. AND I THINK FOR MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO WERE INVOLVED IN THE EFFORT TO CONTAIN SARS IS INEXPLICABLE. I DON'T EVER THINK WE THOUGHT IT WAS JUSTIFIED. SO TONY AND MYSELF, COLIN DI CUNA, SOME REPRESENTATIVES OF TORONTO PUBLIC HEALTH AND ALSO TWO PEOPLE FROM HEALTH CANADA JOINED THAT GROUP. WE HAD TO GO RIGHT INTO A MEETING WITH THE HEAD OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION AT THE TIME AND MAKE OUR CASE. THEY DID NOT GIVE US ANY INDICATION OF WHICH WAY THEY WERE GOING TO GO. AND I REMEMBER TONY AND I GOING BACK TO THE MISSION IN GENEVA TO WAIT FOR THAT CALL. AND I TURNED TO TONY AT ONE POINT AND SAID: WHAT IF THIS DOESN'T WORK? I MEAN, WE HAD BEEN GOING SO FULL ALL OUT TO GET... JUST TO GET THERE TO MAKE SURE WE HAD ALL THE INFORMATION TO MAKE THE CASE. I DON'T THINK WE HAD ALLOWED OURSELVES ONE SECOND TO THINK ABOUT WHAT IF WE ASK FOR THE CHANGES IN THE DESIGNATION AND IT DOESN'T HAPPEN. IT WAS REALLY AT THAT MOMENT I JUST SAID WHAT IF THIS DOESN'T WORK? AND I THINK JUST AT THAT MOMENT THE PHONER RANG AND WE GOT THE THUMBS UP FROM SERGIO MARCHI THAT THE BAN HAD BEEN LIFTED. AND WE WERE SO WRAPPED UP IN CANADA AND ONTARIO'S EXPERIENCE. WE WERE SUDDENLY CONFRONTED WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD WHO HAD BEEN LIVING WITH THE SCARLET LETTER OF SARS IN COUNTRIES IN ASIA WHO THEIR REPORTERS AND THEIR POPULATIONS FELT THAT CANADA MAY HAVE GOTTEN SOME SPECIAL TREATMENT. THEY WERE QUITE ANGRY ABOUT IT AND WE WERE KIND OF CONFRONTED WITH THEIR MEDIA DEMANDING TO KNOW WHY ONTARIO HAD BEEN REMOVED FROM THE LIST OF THE TRAVEL BAN. IN OUR VIEW WE NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Steve says KRISTINA. I WANT TO ASK YOU A VERY NAKEDLY POLITICAL QUESTION HERE WHICH WAS: SARS HIT ONTARIO IN FEBRUARY 2003. AND THOSE OF YOU WHO WORKED IN THE PREMIER'S OFFICE WERE VERY WELL AWARE OF THE FACT THAT AT SOME POINT IN 2003, ERNIE EVES WAS GOING TO HAVE TO CALL AN ELECTION. THIS WAS BEFORE WE HAD FIXED ELECTION DATES. YOU KNEW HE'D HAVE TO CALL AN ELECTION. YOU KNEW THAT IF HIS STEWARDSHIP OF THIS ISSUE DID NOT GO WELL THERE WAS A VERY REAL CHANCE HE WOULD LOSE POWER. BE CANDID WITH US. HOW OFTEN DID THAT ISSUE COME UP? HOW OFTEN DID THE POLITICAL REALITIES OR CONSEQUENCES OF THE DECISIONS THAT YOU WERE MAKING IN THE PREMIER'S OFFICE, HOW OFTEN WAS THAT DISCUSSED?

The caption changes to "The politics of it all."

Kristina says I THINK, STEVE, AS YOU SAY, IT WAS EVERYBODY KNEW THE ELECTION WAS GOING TO BE HAPPENING AT SOME POINT THAT YEAR. AND IT CAME UP LARGELY THROUGH THE MEDIA. I MEAN HE GOT A LOT OF QUESTIONS PROBABLY DAILY ABOUT, ARE YOU GOING TO CALL AN ELECTION? WHEN IS THE ELECTION GOING TO HAPPEN? AND HIS RESPONSE AT THE TIME WAS ALWAYS THIS IS NOT A TIME TO TALK ABOUT THE ELECTION. WE'RE DEALING WITH A HEALTH CRISIS HERE. AND WE HAVE TO GET THROUGH THAT. AND AS PAUL WAS TALKING ABOUT, WHEN THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION ISSUED THE TRAVEL BAN OR TRAVEL ADVISORY, I GUESS FOR ONTARIO OR CANADA, IT WAS SIGNIFICANT NOT ONLY FROM AN ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVE BUT ALSO FROM A TRYING TO MANAGE THIS CRISIS SORT OF ON TWO FRONTS. NOW YOU'VE GOT A HEALTH CRISIS. NOW YOU'VE GOT ACTUALLY AN INTERNATIONAL SORT OF NOBODY COME TO CANADA CRISIS. AND AS TONY SAID AND PAUL MENTIONED, AT THE TIME I THINK WE FELT IT WAS NOT NECESSARILY THE RIGHT THING TO DO. I THINK THERE WERE A FEW TRANSMISSIONS THAT WERE CIRCLED BACK OR HAD BEEN TRACED BACK TO CANADA. AND THAT SORT OF I THINK HAPPENED WHY IT HAPPENED. BUT IT WAS QUICKLY LIFTED AS PAUL SAID THEY WERE SUCCESSFUL IN THEIR MISSION. BY HOW STRESSFUL IT WAS. AND, YOU KNOW, THAT'S A REALLY BEEN THE FOCUS. I THINK IF YOU REMEMBER, YOU KNOW, AS THE RISK... AS THE TRAVEL BAN WAS LIFTED, WE WERE TRYING TO THINK WHAT CAN WE DO TO THE ECONOMY TO HELP ONTARIO? BECAUSE RIGHT NOW WE HAVE THIS SIGNIFICANT ISSUE IN FRONT OF US. AND ONE OF THE BIG THINGS WAS SARS TALK WHICH IT CAME TO BE KNOWN AS... SARS-STOCK. THERE WAS A BIG CONCERT AT DOWNSVIEW AT THE TIME. AND IT WAS THE ROLLING STONES, RUSH, THE GUESS WHO, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE. THERE WERE A NUMBER OF BAND THAT IS CAME AND IT WAS DESIGNED TO SHOW THAT IT'S OKAY, YOU CAN COME HERE. ALL THESE ROCK STARS ARE COMING HERE. MAKE SURE YOU COME TO CANADA AND IT'S STILL A TOURIST DESTINATION FOR YOU.

Steve says TONY WE'VE GOT JUST OVER A MINUTE HERE. I'M CURIOUS DID YOU GO TO THAT SARS-STOCK. I KNOW WHAT A FAN YOU ARE OF MUSIC.

Tony says OH, MAN DID I GO. THAT WAS THE BRAIN CHILD OF DENNIS MILLS, AN EAST TORONTO M.P. AT THE TIME. HE SAID WE HAVE TO HAVE 500,000 PEOPLE AT A CONCERT WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I SAID BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT, GO FOR IT. NEXT THING I KNOW WE GOT A CHEQUE FROM JEAN CHRETIEN FOR 3 MILLION dollars TO PROMOTE THE CONCERT. SO IT WAS THE ROLLING STONES, THE AC-DC WHO WIPED THE FLOOR OF THE ROLLING STONES AT THAT CONCERT... EVERYBODY REMEMBERS THAT. RALPH KLEIN WAS THERE. TOOK IN BURGERS AND ESTABLISHES FROM... COOKING BUG BURGERS AND STEAKS FROM ALBERTA. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. AND WE MADE SURE THAT OUR PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WERE GIVEN SPECIAL INVITATIONS TO BE THERE, TOO. SO THAT WAS A GREAT CATHARTIC EXERCISE THAT I WILL NEVER FORGET.

The caption changes to "Producer: Steve Paikin, @spaikin."

Steve says WELL, I CAN TELL YOU THAT WILL NOT BE THE SOLUTION ANYBODY'S GOING TO BE COMING FORWARD WITH DURING COVID-19. BECAUSE WE'RE NOT ABOUT TO PUT HALF A MILLION PEOPLE IN ANY PARK ANYWHERE ANYTIME SOON. I WANT TO THANK TONY CLEMENT AND KRISTINA GENTES AND MIKE McCARTHY AND PAUL CANTIN FOR COMING ON TO TVO TONIGHT AND WALKING US THROUGH THOSE VERY DANGEROUS AND HARD TIMES 17 YEARS AGO AND SOME OF THE LESSONS WE LEARNED AS A RESULT. THANKS A LOT, YOU FOUR.

All the guests say THANK YOU.

Watch: SARS Team Reflects