London

London, Ont., hospital CEO fired after 5 trips to U.S. during pandemic

After a weekend of mounting pressure, Paul Woods has been fired as CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre, the hospital's board said in an email to staff Monday morning.

Paul Woods travelled 5 times to the U.S., most recently at Christmas

Paul Woods has been fired as CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), the hospital's board said on Monday. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Paul Woods has been fired as CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre and the board of directors that previously said it was aware of his trips outside of the country now says it didn't know about them. 

The dismissal comes after a weekend of mounting pressure from the public and unions representing health-care workers, after it was revealed that Woods had travelled five times during the pandemic to the United States. He said he lives alone in London, Ont., and was visiting immediate family. 

The most recent trip was over the Christmas holidays. 

"It has become clear that this situation has affected the confidence of staff, physicians and the community in Dr. Woods' leadership," the board of directors, which oversees Woods' employment, said in a statement Monday morning. 

The firing is a stark reversal from Friday, when chair Amy Walby said the "Board of Directors is aware that Dr. Woods continued to travel for personal reasons given the separation from his immediate family," and that the board supports his continued leadership. 

Woods' employment contract entitles him to at least 12 months of salary following his termination without cause. His salary was $605,000 according to last year's Sunshine List. Woods would be entitled to his base salary, which is $495,000, plus his annual 20 per cent bonus and all benefits. It's possible he could fight the termination and get his full salary until the end of his contract term, which is January 2023. 

If his termination is deemed with cause, he would not get anything. CBC News has asked for clarification from the board on the termination agreement. 

On Monday, the board distanced itself from knowledge of Woods' travel in a statement.

"While the Board was aware of Dr. Woods' personal circumstances, it had no advance notice of and did not approve his travel outside Canada. There is no process for the Board of a public hospital to approve a chief executive officer's personal travel," the board said. 

'Best interest of hospital'

Requests for comment from the board were directed to the hospital's communications department. CBC has made multiple requests, including as recently as Monday morning. 

Requests for comment from Dr. Paul Woods have also been refused. 

"The board is committed to ensuring the stability of our organization during this global pandemic and we recognize the unprecedented efforts and dedication of hospital staff and physicians. The Board's responsibility is to act in the best interests of LHSC and the communities it serves and this decision responds to hospital and community concerns about recent news of Dr. Woods' travel outside Canada during the pandemic," the board's Monday statement said. 

None of the elected directors of the Board of LHSC have travelled outside of Canada since the onset of the pandemic, the statement noted. 

The interim President and Chief Executive Officer of LHSC will be announced in the coming days.

What the board said

In the last three days, the board of directors has done an about-face regarding what it knew, and when, about Woods' travel. 

Friday: 

"The Board of Directors is aware Dr. Woods continued to travel for personal reasons given the separation from his immediate family and the Board supports his continued leadership of LHSC. At a meeting of the elected Directors of the Board, Dr. Paul Woods received the support of the Board, and we believe it is in the best interest of the system to maintain stability at the CEO level at such tumultuous times."

Monday:

"While the Board was aware of Dr. Woods' personal circumstances, it had no advance notice of and did not approve his travel outside Canada. There is no process for the Board of a public hospital to approve a chief executive officer's personal travel."

Who are the board members

  • Amy Walby  (Chair).
  • Phyllis Retty  (First Vice Chair).
  • Matthew Wilson (Second Vice Chair).
  • Jim Brock.
  • Rhonda Choja.
  • Lisa Conley.
  • Kimberlee Haines.
  • Mike Hodgson.
  • Terry Marcus.
  • Larry McBride.
  • Ramona Robinson.
  • Kevin Ross.
  • Bruce Woods.
  • Jeff Wright.

The board also has four ex-officio board members, which means they were not elected to their roles. They are: 

  • Scott McKay.
  • Sachin Pandey.
  • Paul Woods.
  • Carol Young-Ritchie.

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