New Brunswick

Province's top doctor returns 'recharged,' addresses rumours

The province's top doctor says she has heard the rumours about her recent absence from work and seen the speculative posts on social media, and most of them are untrue.

Dr. Jennifer Russell says she was on vacation and in a car accident that required physiotherapy

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province's chief medical officer of health, says she feels 'recharged' and 're-energized' after her time off. (Government of New Brunswick)

New Brunswick's top doctor says she has heard the rumours about her recent absence from work and seen the speculative posts on social media, and most of them are untrue.

Dr. Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health, hasn't left her position over stress of managing COVID-19 in the province. She says she's back on the job after a much-needed vacation.

"The pandemic has been a challenging time for everyone. … And definitely our team has worked really hard throughout the pandemic," she said in an interview Tuesday.

"So after two very busy years, when the province lifted its restrictions, I decided it was a good time for me to take some time off."

Russell acknowledged there are "lots of rumours about what led to that decision and what exactly [she] was doing while [she] was off."

"Basically I did need a vacation, there's no question," she said.

It was good to "disconnect and decompress."

But then she was in a car accident. She hit a deer and totalled her car.

"I'm still in physio, but I'm doing much better," she said.

"It's been good to have that time to be able to look after my health, for sure."

Sold house

It's true Russell sold her house in Fredericton while she was off, but she says she simply decided to "downsize a bit early."

"My oldest has already gone off to university and my youngest is about to. So it was a good time with the market being what it was for me to do that."

She did not work on the new album released last Friday by the blues/funk band for which she plays the saxophone, The Tortoise, The Hare & The Millionaire, she said.

"No, I leave that to the real professionals who do it for a living."

Asked about the criticisms of her decision to step away from her post as she did, Russell maintains it was the right move.

"I definitely feel like my job to look after people in New Brunswick was so important that I did need to step away so I could look after myself, so I can look after other people."

She is doing "very, very well" now, she said.

"I feel definitely recharged. I hit the reset button and re-energized and back at the helm."

Russell thanked acting deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Yves Léger and the rest of the Public Health team for their hard work and dedication to New Brunswickers.

"I definitely felt very comfortable leaving the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health in such good hands."

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said it's good to have Russell back.

"Well, sure. I mean, you know, we're a team and we all work together," she said.

"I've always maintained that Dr. Russell is our chief medical officer of health, but she works with the team and when she's not available, she has a team who backs her up."

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