Fired Horizon’s CEO’s appeal decision offers a behind-the-scenes look at the health changes
A labor judge’s decision in the former Horizon Health Network CEO’s complaint about his public firing by the prime minister offers a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes as healthcare changes are made in New Brunswick.
dr John Dornan won his wrongful dismissal case against the province earlier this week.
Judge George Filliter accepted Dornan’s “public, disingenuous and callous manner” being fired four months after his five-year contract expired and awarded him approximately $2 million.
Premier Blaine Higgs announced Dornan’s dismissal during a July 15 news conference after a Fredericton patient was found in the emergency room waiting room at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital had died.
“Potentially Precarious Job”
According to the decision, Dornan “became very aware of the potentially precarious nature of [his] job” while still serving as interim CEO.
He testified at the decision hearing that at some point in those seven months he was “encouraged to consider” terminating obstetric and gynecological services at Upper River Valley Hospital in Waterville.
The decision does not show who encouraged him. Dornan declined to provide further information on Friday.
But according to his unchallenged testimony, he “considered this option and, because it was consistent with previous plans, made the decision to discontinue these services and made an announcement to that effect,” the decision reads.
Higgs told him he was “thrown under the bus.”
The next day he was told by the Horizon board to rescind his announcement and “later received a call from the Premier telling the mourner during this conversation that he had been ‘thrown under the bus'” is it[called
The province did not interrogate Dornan during the hearing and left his testimony unchallenged.
Heidi Liston, then deputy health minister, testified at the hearing. Former Health Secretary Dorothy Shephard also testified briefly, but the parties agreed that she could produce “no relevant evidence” in Dornan’s case.
There is no other information about Upper River Valley obstetrics in the 34-page decision.
Shortage of nurses, doctors cited
On November 5, 2021, Horizon warned expectant mothers in the Waterville area to have their babies about 100 kilometers away at Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton.
Upper River Valley Hospital has faced a shortage of nurses and doctors amid an urgent need to care for COVID-19 patients, Friday night’s news release said.
“Continued, temporary closures of labor and obstetrics services at Horizon’s URVH due to nurse and physician shortages and to care for COVID-19 patients have created uncertainty for obstetric patients and their care teams,” the press release reads.
Horizon “implemented a long-term solution to secure expectant mothers from the Upper River Valley area [had] Access to reliable, safe and quality care during labor and delivery.”
This solution was to move labor and childbirth services from Waterville to Fredericton.
“This is the safest alternative for their care and that of their baby, providing stability and certainty about where they will deliver.”
Horizon didn’t say how long the diversion would take, but Woodstock Mayor Arthur Slipp said local residents were “very, very concerned” that they could be permanently closed.
The next day, Horizon issued another press release.
“Following yesterday’s statement, Horizon Health Network will continue to provide labor and obstetrics services at Horizon’s Upper River Valley Hospital (URVH) in Waterville.”
No one from Horizon was available at the time to explain the flip-flop.