Was the London physician a sufferer of the witch hunt towards elite vacationers throughout COVID-19? A lawsuit for $ 2.5 million claims so

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Howard Levitt: Determination of essential travel is ultimately left to the individual – unless or until he enters the court of public opinion

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Howard Levitt

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February 19, 2021 • • 35 minutes ago • • Read 4 minutes Dr.  Paul Woods was fired on January 10, 2021 for serving as CEO of the London Health Sciences Center. Dr. Paul Woods was fired on January 10, 2021 for serving as CEO of the London Health Sciences Center. Photo by Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press / Postmedia Network Files

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Dr. Paul Woods, the former CEO of the London Health Sciences Center, filed a US $ 2.5 million lawsuit against his former employer in January for malice and defamation. This is likely to succeed in the unlikely event that the employer does not quickly resolve the matter with a substantial settlement offer. The case is yet another embarrassing exposure of the amateurism that is rampant in Ontario’s hospital fiefdoms and the common mistakes made by the volunteer committees that oversee them.

Dr. Woods is a Canadian citizen and prior to his appointment as CEO of the London-based hospital was a senior executive at a Michigan hospital. He has permanent residency in the United States, where his immediate family and fiance currently reside.

The LHSC Board of Directors was of course aware of all of this. In 2020, he made five trips to Michigan to visit his family after the federal government restricted all non-essential travel to the United States. The lawsuit says the doctor raised this issue at least three times during the year with the LHSC board chairman and chief legal officer, who asks for instructions on whether it is appropriate for him to travel to the US, how often, and if he does Should bring matter to the full board. The lawsuit states that every time he received assurances from the chairman that he could work effectively remotely and that “a visit every two months as a (painful) compromise hits the mark”.

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Determination of essential travel is ultimately left to the individual – unless or until he enters the court of public opinion. It wasn’t until former Ontario Treasury Secretary Rod Phillips apparently attempted to deceive the public while vacationing in St. Barts in December 2020 that a collective Canadian light was shed on the travel habits of leaders of all kinds.

It is not surprising, or likely coincidental, that Dr. Wood’s resignation came just 10 days after Phillip’s resignation – it was the height of the witch hunt for elite travel offenders, and in the frenzy of the hunt, all were fair game.

Dr. Woods was fired on January 10, 2021 by the LHSC board chairman – the same chairman who, according to Dr. Woods had been consulted three times about his plans to travel to the United States to visit his family.

Schizophrenic messages to the public through LHSC preceded and followed the termination. On January 8, 2021, two days before his resignation and in an apparent attempt to stay ahead of a press story, LHSC issued a media statement telling the public about Dr. Woods’ US travel informed, stating that he “has received the support of the Board of Directors” and that the Board of Directors believes it is important “to maintain stability at the CEO level in such turbulent times”.

He was released two days later. A day later, the LHSC issued a statement stating that the board “did not pre-announce and approve its travel outside of Canada” and that “the board of a public hospital has no process for authorizing a board chairperson in person. “In my opinion, this is an obvious attempt by the LHSC board members to circumvent the fact that their own chairman approved his trip. Furthermore, the statement reads:” None of the LHSC elected directors have traveled outside of Canada since the pandemic began . “

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Amy Walby, LHSC’s chairman of the board of directors, has since resigned.

In a written statement to the CBC, the hospital confirmed that Dr. Woods was fired for no reason, and in a statement of defense denied the allegations, stating: “To the extent that Dr. Woods was harmed, it is a result of his own bad judgment and hypocrisy. “

Dr. Woods, his journey, and ongoing role as CEO of LHSC should be treated calmly within the institution and not publicly using the media. Did Dr. Woods traveled to the US as often as he did? Maybe.

Should the CEO have raised this matter to the full board for discussion before signaling their approval? Probably. Did the Dr. Woods defamed and misled the public when she said the board “had no notice and did not approve his travel outside of Canada”, especially since she had admitted days ago that “the board of directors, Dr. Woods, was traveling for personal reasons”? Absolutely.

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In posting this statement, the board acted with unbridled self-interest, throwing its former CEO at the angry mob of public opinion while trying to save itself, and likely violating the directors’ duty to act in the best interests of the company, whom they serve. As for the multi-million dollar bill? It’s about Ontario taxpayers.

There is a solution I would recommend if I acted for the hospital. The other board members should also resign, and the hospital should apologize and tell Dr. Invite Woods back immediately. If he does not return, he has not lessened his damage and is not entitled to anything beyond his previous damage. When he comes back the lawsuit will be settled.

Do you have a question about labor law during COVID-19? Write to Howard at [email protected]

Howard Levitt is a senior partner at LSCS Law, employment and labor law attorneys. He practices labor law in eight provinces. He is the author of six books, including the Canadian Dismissal Act.

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