Ottawa's chief medical officer to quit

The doctor in charge of public health in the city of Ottawa is resigning. The news comes after clashes between Dr. David Salisbury and Ottawa council over the city's harm reduction programs for drug addicts.

The doctor in charge of public health in the city of Ottawa is resigning. Medical officer of health Dr. David Salisbury will leave his current job on May 5, the city announced Wednesday in a news release.

Salisbury has accepted a job with Transport Canada, where he will be director of civil aviation medicine, returning to an area of medicine "that has long been a professional passion," Salisbury said in the release.

During the past year, Salisbury clashed with city council over programs intended to curb the spread of HIV and hepatitis among drug users.

Last week, he was asked by councillors to review the city's needle-exchange policy and look into the possibility of requiring drug users to turn in a dirty needle in order to get a clean one. Right now, most of the city's needle exchanges collect and distribute needles separately.

Salisbury said he would conduct the review, even though he believed switching to a one-on-one exchange would boost HIV rates.

Last July, city council cancelled its funding for a program that provided free, clean crack pipes to drug addicts even though Salisbury said the program was reducing the spread of disease.

The public aspect of his job, including dealing with the media, hasn't always been easy, he said.

"Living in a bubble or in a glass house all the time is very difficult when you have some extremely difficult and often controversial decisions to make," he said. "Someone has to do it and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to do it and I think I did a tolerably good job at that over the last four years."

But he added that he is ready to move on to other challenges.

Salisbury said he doesn't blame councillors for the conflicts that arose over city health policies.

"They are asked to be too many things to too many people," he said. "A board of health has particular responsibilities that need to be exercised and they often conflict with the political reality that exists in this city."

Salisbury was appointed the city's medical officer of health in 2005.

Before joining Ottawa Public Health in June 2004 as the associate medical officer of health and manager of the infectious disease control division, Salisbury was the deputy chief of staff for Force health protection with the Canadian Forces medical group at National Defence headquarters.

Salisbury is past president of the Canadian Aerospace Medicine and Aeromedical Transport Association and the International Association of Military Flight Surgeon Pilots.