Former hospital CEO who went on Dominican vacation to get more than $1M payout

The former head of a Hamilton hospital network who vacationed in the Dominican Republic over the holidays amid warnings not to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic was fired without cause and is entitled to 24 months of pay, which amounts to more than $1 million.

The board of directors at St. Joseph’s Health System confirmed the new details of Dr. Tom Stewart’s departure on Monday evening.

“All terms of Dr. Stewart’s contract will be upheld by both parties,” read a statement.

Stewart will now have to look for permanent work that can pay what he earned as president and CEO, and only if he finds such work can St. Joe’s stop payment, according to his contract, dated Aug. 1, 2018. For some time, he would also continue to receive some employment-related benefits.

He received a salary of $604,083.24 and $25,631.76 in taxable benefits in 2019, according to public records.

It follows news last Thursday that he was out as CEO at St. Joe’s and that Melissa Farrell, president of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, knew Stewart was heading abroad in December but couldn’t stop him.

The St. Joe’s board of directors has also confirmed that it approved his vacation but did not indicate if board members knew Stewart was going to the Dominican Republic.

“If they knew, that’s an ethical breach,” said Dr. Kerry Bowman, who teaches bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto.

“If they didn’t see this as an ethical problem, it shows the system is flawed.”

Stewart’s vacation began on Dec. 18 and occurred while facilities in his hospital networks fought off COVID-19 outbreaks. It also started a day after his hospital networks asked Premier Doug Ford’s government to be more decisive about lockdown measures.

He was removed as CEO of Niagara Health last Wednesday. On Tuesday, hours after the public learned of his vacation, Stewart resigned from a number of health advisory boards, including a COVID-19 panel that advises Ford. 

He has also faced previous controversy during his time as chief of staff at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

Stewart resigned from that position in 2012 after a Toronto Star investigation revealed the hospital paid ORNGE CEO Chris Mazza $256,000 for consulting work without proof the work was completed.

Winnie Doyle to serve as new CEO

St. Joe’s announced that Winnie Doyle will be its new interim president and CEO effective Jan. 18. She was previously executive vice-president of clinical programs and has been interim president before.

“Now, under Ms. Doyle’s leadership, we will continue to provide the excellent and compassionate health care that the people in our communities have come to rely on,” the board said.

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