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Central Health CEO Rosemarie Goodyear steps down amid growing upheaval in health

The CEO of central Newfoundland's health authority has resigned amid a growing instability at the executive level in the province's health system

Health Minister says he doesn't know if her resignation was forced

Central Health CEO Rosemarie Goodyear, left, at the announcement of the new pathology technology in Gander. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

The CEO of central Newfoundland's health authority has resigned amid a growing instability at the executive level in the province's health system

Central Health's board of trustees issued a news release Monday morning, announcing that Rosemarie Goodyear would be stepping down immediately.

Her contract was not due to expire until September.

Her sudden departure comes just days after Health Minister John Haggie announced a rare external review of Central Health after escalating staff complaints about management.

Health Minister John Haggie was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Friday to address members of the Combined Councils of Labrador. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

In an interview with CBC News on Monday, Haggie said he did not know if Goodyear's resignation came of her own accord, or if it was requested.

"I haven't heard or seen of a reason behind it," he said. "I have not had any discussions with Ms. Goodyear or the board chair since we talked about the start of the external review."

The board said it would not be offering any comments on Goodyear's resignation.

CBC News has also confirmed that Dr. Bryan Woolridge has resigned as the chief of staff at James Paton Memorial Regional Health Centre in Gander. He will, however, be staying on as an orthopedic surgeon.

Woolridge declined comment when contacted late last week.

No concern for frontline services, says minister

There were rumblings last week that Goodyear was on her way out, but Haggie was evasive when asked to comment on Friday, saying "as of this moment she is the CEO."

Meanwhile, Haggie says patient care and frontline services will not suffer because of the unsettled atmosphere at the leadership level of three of the four health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

When asked if the resignation of Goodyear and Woolridge signals chaos at the upper levels of Central Health, Haggie said no.

"To try and put labels on like that would be unfortunate," he said. "It's not unusual for roles like that to turn over."

Doctors at the James Paton Memorial Hospital say the facility is run by managers who don't communicate with them, or respect their opinion. (CBC)

The resignations are just one element of a broader shakeup at the health boards, and comes at a time when the province is struggling to cope with a difficult financial situation and a health system that consumes about 40 per cent of all public spending.

Haggie called it an "unfortunate coincidence" that much of the executive team at Labrador-Grenfell Health has left or are about to leave the organization.

Barbara Molgaard Blake is the interim CEO at Labrador-Grenfell Health, but will leave the post on March 2 to take up another position with the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The winds of change are also blowing within Western Health — with the search continuing for a new chief executive officer to replace Susan Gillam.

But the tension at Central Health is what's drawing the most serious response from Haggie.

"The concern level from the communities across Central Health was outside what I experienced with a [regional health authority] before," Haggie said.

A former health administrator from Nova Scotia will carry out the external review. On Monday, Haggie said the terms of reference will likely be finished by the end of the week, at which point they will be posted online.

"I felt to reassure people and to make sure we had a plan to see Central Health succeed as a functioning, viable RHA, and a valuable jewel in the crown of the health system, we needed to do this to sort out these issues."

Interestingly, Haggie's decision to call in an investigator came just a day after Forbes Canada business magazine listed Central Health at No. 43 on its Top 300 list of best employers in Canada.

Memorial University, at No. 129, was the only other Newfoundland and Labrador-based company or organization to crack the Top 150.

Meanwhile, the new independent appointments commission has hired a firm to recruit candidates for the CEO jobs at both Labrador-Grenfell and Western Health.

Haggie acknowledged the process is taking longer than he would have liked, but said, "I think the delay is worth that level of independence."

The health department will speak with the public service commission and independent appointments commission in an effort to expedite Goodyear's replacement.

Until then, Haggie said it is likely senior staff will pitch in as a group and cover the vacant CEO position.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story identified Dr. Bryan Woolridge as chief of orthopedics at James Paton Memorial Regional Health Centre. That information, from Health Minister John Haggie, is incorrect. In fact, Dr. Joseph Tumilty has been in that role since August 2017, according to Central Health corporate communications.
    Feb 13, 2018 3:20 PM NT

About the Author

Terry Roberts

CBC News

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

With files from Ryan Cooke