After leaving job amid personal issues, Toronto public health chief takes leave

A day after Toronto Public Health announced it was putting its chief officer of health on medical leave in connection with “personal issues,” Dr. Eileen de Villa — a former Canada Health Force surgeon general who resigned from that position in 2003 — voluntarily took leave from the job, it was confirmed to Fox News.

De Villa is believed to be undergoing treatment for cancer.

“Dr. de Villa is in her home and will leave her current post until a thorough review has taken place,” spokeswoman Julie Di Lorenzo said in a statement Monday evening. “Dr. de Villa’s immediate concerns are her own health and well-being.”

Vancouver-based public health doctor Gautam Gupta suggested that de Villa, 65, may suffer from a form of cancer called Burkitt’s lymphoma.

“Burkitt’s (Lymphoma) is a rare lymphoma,” Gupta told Fox News. “Usually only those with an already extensive lymphoma get Burkitt’s but the Toronto Public Health statement makes no mention of Ms. de Villa’s disease status.”

Gupta did say the possibility of de Villa’s illness spurring her departure is a “reasonable” assumption.

A board member of Toronto Public Health, former TPS Ile Bizard Hospital surgeon general Thomas Bachtiar, told the Toronto Star that de Villa does not appear to be in good health.

“She cannot see or hear properly and has to be helped by those in the room,” Bachtiar said. “Normally, we don’t have such a high level of illness as this one — she has to be very underweight for this to happen — so her state of health could be low-grade pneumonia or an infection or serious mycobacterial infection.”

According to the report, the staff that maintains her illness are not aware of the exact nature of her ailment.

Earlier Monday, the Toronto Star reported that de Villa told TPS board chair Dr. Kathy Dunderdale she was taking medical leave last Thursday. But Dunderdale said the board was told that “she would remain at her post while she received treatment.”

Chief medical officer in Canada is an appointed position, and experts say it is not unusual for those running the show to be on medical leave.

TPS public health chair Karen Stintz told the Toronto Star that the TPS will implement regular policy checks and require CMOs to update supervisors and management on a regular basis.

“As well, we will also put an additional police check on the CMO to ensure they have a very good understanding of medical and physical issues,” she told the paper.

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