Higgs is awaiting legal advice on $2 million awarded to the Horizon boss he fired

Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters Thursday he was waiting for the province's

Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters Thursday he was waiting for the province’s “lawyers” to evaluate the 34-page decision by the working committee arbitrator. (CBC – photo credit)

Premier Blaine Higgs stands by the decisions he made last summer, including a major overhaul of New Brunswick’s healthcare leadership after the death of a patient in the waiting room of an emergency room in Fredericton, but has commented on a record-breaking $2 million -Available the former head of the Horizon Health Network, one of the leaders he has publicly fired.

Meanwhile, opposition leaders say Higgs’ failure to appreciate the consequences of his actions has cost taxpayers money they can’t afford.

On Wednesday, Dr. John Dornan, who served just four months as President and CEO of Horizon, his wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the province.

Labor Judge George Filliter awarded him approximately $1.8 million in special damages — the amount Dornan would have earned if he had performed on his five-year contract, plus $200,000 in aggravated damages.

“I haven’t heard the legal report on next steps,” Higgs said Thursday.

“I think the only point I would make about that is that we’ve recently – and we continue to see – made improvements in the healthcare system.”

Termination in ‘public, disingenuous and callous manner’

Higgs announced Dornan’s release at a July 15 news conference, citing a growing health crisis that included the “traumatizing” death of a patient on July 12 in the emergency room waiting room at Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital. He also announced that he would drop Dorothy Shephard as Secretary of Health and remove the boards of Horizon and Vitalité.

“When I was making decisions in July, it was about bringing a sense of urgency to the health care system, that we have a crisis across the country and we need to find a streamlined way to go about it,” he told reporters Thursday during a independent press conference in Fredericton.

Horizon Health Network

Horizon Health Network

“If I had to return in July, I would do the same.”

When asked for clarification, given the judge’s decision to accept Dornan’s position that his dismissal “was made in a ‘public, disingenuous and callous manner,’ Higgs said he “did not speak out about what the judge said and whether that was correct was or wrong. I was referring to the overall situation and the changes made.

Episodes of “Throwing People Under the Bus”

In a statement, Susan Holt, leader of the New Brunswick Liberals, said: “There are consequences when you disrespect your team, fire staff like it’s no big deal and throw people under the bus.

“The prime minister’s lack of appreciation for the consequences of his actions has only cost people [New Brunswick] more than $2 million,” she wrote.

Green Party leader David Coon said: “This is what happens when a Prime Minister or other leader makes bad decisions.”

Dornan, he said, accepted the position of president and CEO because he “wanted to make a difference in healthcare for New Brunswickers.

“He really thought about how he could redesign the system to better serve the people of this province and he got fired for his problems.”

Coon claims Higgs “reacted irrationally” to the patient’s death in the ER waiting room.

“When he gets angry, the prime minister tends to shoot from the hip and that’s never a good plan,” he said.

2. high-profile dispute with a doctor

This is the second high-profile dispute Higgs has been involved in.

A former Campbellton doctor who says he faced racism and threats after being accused in 2020 of breaking COVID-19 rules for not isolating and being the source of a deadly outbreak, sues the province, the RCMP and Facebook.

dr Jean-Robert Ngola, 52, filed the lawsuit in January 2022.

During a press conference on May 27, 2020, Higgs said a medic in his 50s traveled to Quebec for personal reasons, “did not disclose his reasons for traveling upon his return to New Brunswick and they did not self-isolate as a result.”

Higgs never referred to Ngola by name, but blamed the “irresponsible person” who returned to work and was treated at Campbellton Regional Hospital for a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Campbellton area and a resurgence of the coronavirus in the province patients for two weeks.

Photo by Judy Trinh/CBC News

Photo by Judy Trinh/CBC News

Asked Thursday if he was concerned his comments in the two cases could affect the province’s ability to recruit much-needed doctors, Higgs said he was always striving to do what is best for New Brunswickers.

“Let’s put the personalities and the personal conflicts aside and say, ‘How do we deliver better results?’ I just stick to that principle and that’s why there are tough discussions sometimes.”

Asked how Dornan’s sudden firing has helped healthcare when it appears many of Horizon’s successes since were already underway under Dornan, Higgs said the programs are “under review, under review, in Coming Soon” that would have been viewed or considered for years or so.

“There is now more than ever a sense of urgency to ensure these projects cross the finish line,” he said. “What we want to achieve are the results that people can feel.”

As examples, he cited a 70 percent reduction in cataract surgery wait times in Bathurst and reducing the number of New Brunswickers without access to primary care from 75,000 to 55,000.


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