Hospital CEO Ontario COVID-19 Advisory Team Member Vacationing in Dominican Republic Amid Pandemic

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A member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Table ended a vacation that began in mid-December and included a trip to the Dominican Republic.
The group is made up of scientific experts and health system leaders who assess and report on new evidence relevant to the pandemic, to inform Ontario’s response.

Dr. Tom Stewart is listed as a member of the Command Table. often mentioned by Premier Doug Ford during media briefings.

He is also CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System and Niagara Health System.

CBC News has contacted the Department of Health for comment.

Patrick Moore, the senior public affairs specialist at St. Joe’s, told CBC News by email that Dr. Tom Stewart was on approved vacation from Friday, Dec. 18 through Tuesday.

“I regret this non-essential trip and I’m sorry,” read a quote attributed to Stewart. “Everyone should avoid non-essential travel now, including me. ”

“As a leader of the healthcare system, my actions in no way reflect the tireless dedication and commitment of the staff of the St. Joseph’s Health System, who continue to live the legacy of our organization every day.

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It is not clear who approved the vacation and why Stewart was allowed to leave the country. It is also not known how many of his vacation days were spent in the Dominican Republic and if he returned to Canada.

Moore said the CEO will isolate himself at his home for two weeks. He has been CEO since August 1, 2018.

St. Joe’s includes six different member organizations with multiple locations including: St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, St. Joseph’s Health Center in Guelph, St. Joseph’s Home Care, St. Joseph’s Lifecare Center in Brantford and St. Joseph’s Villa in Dundas.

Villa Saint-Joseph has had a COVID-19 epidemic since November 20. She recorded 55 infections and eight deaths. There has been a facility-wide outbreak at Greater Niagara General Hospital after more than 100 people tested positive for COVID-19. The general St. Catharines site is also having an outbreak.

Stewart’s vacation follows a number of politicians, including Hamilton Tory MP David Sweet, who were on vacation abroad as Ontario entered a provincial lockdown and infections and deaths persisted for the pandemic.

News of Stewart’s vacation also comes as Hamilton and Niagara reported 289 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Unions disappointed by CEO’s tropical vacation

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions / CUPE, said he was “disappointed” to learn of the vacation.

“People in leadership positions need to show leadership,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.

“You would hope that someone in a leadership position in a large hospital system would understand that it is important not only to follow medical orders, but to be seen to respect them, because you would think that you understand much more deeply why are these ordinances in place. ”

Morgan Hoffarth, president of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, said Stewart’s choice was “irresponsible.”

“We work tirelessly day in and day out. I work in a nursing home during an outbreak, so for frontline healthcare workers to be on the job every day and not be able to take a day off, and leaders who travel overseas or abroad for fun is not in my opinion something to which people will respond favorably: “On a phone call Tuesday night,

Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare, a union that represents more than 60,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario, said, “There can’t be one set of rules for CEOs of hospitals who earn more than one. half a million dollars a year and a different set of rules for frontline workers like PSWs still awaiting the temporary pay rise promised to them by the Prime Minister last October. ”

None of the union leaders called for Stewart’s resignation.

“I think that’s something he needs to think about… I’m not a big fan of making an example of people failing,” said Hurley.

“This is an example of a significant part of Ontario society that still doesn’t understand we are in a terrible pandemic and cannot travel the way we always have as we would like. ”

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