The Ontario hospital CEO who went the Dominican Republic over the holiday break has lost both of his jobs after an outcry over his decision to travel despite pandemic advice.
Tom Stewart, chief executive of St. Joseph’s Health System in Hamilton, travelled to the Dominican Republic during a recent 2½-week vacation. He was removed on Thursday by St. Joseph’s board of directors, which convened a second meeting to decide to his fate.
“The St. Joseph’s Health System and Dr. Thomas Stewart, President and CEO, have parted ways effective today,” said a statement on Thursday. “The Board of Directors of St. Joseph’s Health System would like to thank Dr. Thomas Stewart for his service since assuming the role of CEO and President in August 2018.”
It said an interim replacement would be named shortly.
The St. Joseph’s hospital system operates health care facilities in Hamilton, Guelph, Brantford and Kitchener. Dr. Stewart’s 2019 salary with taxable benefits was $629,000, according to the province’s public disclosure list.
According to Dr. Stewart’s contract posted online, he may be entitled to 24 months of salary equivalent to more than $1.1-million in termination payments, although it’s unclear whether he would still be eligible. The contract said he wouldn’t be eligible if he is terminated for “gross neglect of duty” or “willful neglect” of his duties. St. Joseph’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Dr. Stewart was also replaced late Wednesday in his other role as CEO of the Niagara Health network of hospitals. On Tuesday, Dr. Stewart resigned from his roles advising the provincial government on both the COVID-19 science and command tables.
The revelation about the hospital leader’s travel came just days after Ontario’s finance minister, Rod Phillips, resigned after taking a December trip to the exclusive Caribbean resort island of St. Barts. Several federal politicians were also found to have travelled during the break, and in Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney’s municipal affairs minister and chief of staff also resigned, and five MLAs were demoted.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union had called for Dr. Stewart to resign, while other health care professionals said they were deeply disappointed in his behaviour. The Ontario NDP had called on the hospital board to send a “strong signal” about Dr. Stewart’s travel.
Federal and provincial officials have urged Canadians for months to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada and continue to advise it as a more contagious variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads around the world.
Dr. Stewart took an “approved vacation” from Dec. 18 to Jan.5, according to a statement this week from the hospital, and travelled to the Dominican Republic during that time. It said he is now self-isolating for two weeks.
“I regret this non-essential travel and I’m sorry,” Dr. Stewart said in the statement. “I recognize everyone should be avoiding non-essential travel now, including me.”
Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.