New Brunswick has lost its deputy chief medical officer of health to Nova Scotia.
Dr. Cristin Muecke will join Nova Scotia's Department of Health as a regional medical officer of health, effective Jan. 31, department spokesperson Dan Harrison confirmed.
"We are excited to have Dr Muecke join us and pleased to have someone of her calibre join our team of medical officers of health," he said in an emailed statement.
Muecke has worked for the New Brunswick Department of Health for about 17 years, when she started as a regional medical officer of health.
"It is a common occurrence that professionals leave their employment to explore other career opportunities," department spokesperson Bruce Macfarlane said in an emailed statement.
Muecke could not immediately be reached for comment.
Green Party Leader David Coon made Muecke's departure public through a post on social media over the weekend.
"Dr. Cristin Muecke recently left her position as Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health," he tweeted on Sunday.
"I join all New Brunswickers in thanking her for her dedicated service to keeping us safe during this pandemic and wish her the very best in her future endeavours.
At centre of mixed mask messaging
Last August, when speaking at a COVID briefing in the absence of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell, Muecke strongly urged indoor mask use, given the "surge" in COVID-19 cases since the province moved to the green phase.
"Given our current case numbers and the evidence of community spread, I urge all New Brunswickers to continue to wear a mask when they are in indoor public spaces," she said.
"It is true that masks are not currently required by law as they were earlier in the pandemic, but remember we are dealing with a communicable disease that can and will spread quickly among the unprotected."
Muecke called this "a strong Public Health recommendation at this time."
The next day, during an interview with CBC's Information Morning Fredericton, Premier Blaine Higgs undercut Muecke's warning.
"If you feel better wearing a mask, certainly do that. " he said. "There's no harm in that."
Since joining this department, Dr. Muecke has played an integral role in protecting the health of the citizens of New Brunswick. - Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health
At a Sept. 1 COVID briefing, Russell had similar advice. "The choice is yours whether you choose to continue to wear a mask in indoor public spaces."
By Sept. 20, masks were ruled mandatory in all indoor public spaces again "to keep our people healthy and to protect our health-care system," said Russell.
Public Health "always recommended that everyone wear a mask in indoor public spaces," she said.
In a statement Monday, Russell said, "Since joining this department, Dr. Muecke has played an integral role in protecting the health of the citizens of New Brunswick.
"Her hard work, dedication, and professionalism, especially during the last 22 months, has been an inspiration to all and she will be deeply missed."
Dr. Yves Léger, the medical officer of health for the east region, Zones 1 and 7, is serving as acting deputy chief medical officer of health, as of last Saturday, said Macfarlane.
He did not respond to questions about the department's plans or timeline to fill the position permanently.
He did say the department is "welcoming back another medical officer of health to the team," but did not say who this is. Nor did he say what other medical officer positions are currently vacant.
Muecke was appointed deputy chief medical officer of health in 2018 after acting in the role for two years, according to the National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health's website.
Between 2013 and 2018, she held the position of medical officer of health for provincial programs, it states
She was the regional medical officer of health for the Fredericton region between 2005 and 2013.
She obtained her medical degree at Dalhousie University and specialized in public health and preventive medicine, including a masters degree in epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University, according to the website.