More than half of MUHC board quits, citing Health Minister Gaétan Barrette's refusal to engage

The 10 independent members of the board of the McGill University Health Centre have resigned, citing the unco-operative approach of Health Minister Gaétan Barrette.

'We are at an impasse,' say independent board members in announcing resignation Monday

The 10 independent MUHC board members said the health minister was refusing to respond to their concerns.

Ten members of the board of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) — including the board's chair, Claudio Bussandri — have resigned, citing the unco-operative approach of Health Minister Gaétan Barrette.

In a news release issued Monday afternoon, the independent board members, who make up more than half of the 19-member board, said Barrette "has for many months refused to engage with us."

They said Barrette has ignored their requests for meetings, hasn't responded to correspondence and refused to share with them reports on the MUHC commissioned by the Health Ministry, including the Joshi and Desjardins reports, before eventually making them public.

"Instead, with his threats of trusteeship and his questioning both in public and in private of our competency, it has become clear that Minister Barrette views the Board of Directors as a stumbling block," the former directors said in their news release.

"We are at an impasse."

One of the board members who resigned, Glenn Rourke, told CBC News that the board has been trying to meet with Barrette for months.

"There was radio silence, we got nothing back," Rouke said.

Gaetan Barrette, Quebec's health minister, told CBC Monday he is not looking to put the MUHC under trusteeship. (Radio-Canada)

They said by the minister's silence, it's clear he has rejected their proposal to set up a joint committee with the Health Ministry to address the selection of a new president and executive director for the MUHC, and the hospital's financial crisis.

The board members who resigned are: 

  • Claudio Bussandri (chair).
  • Gail Campbell.
  • Marie Giguere.
  • David Laidley. 
  • Teresa Pacheco.
  • Robert Rabinovitch. 
  • Janis Riven.
  • Glenn Rourke. 
  • Melissa Sonberg. 
  • Norman Spencer. 

The independent members had been named to the board in 2015 by the Health Ministry, following the recommendation of a committee of governance experts.

'I thank them for their commitment': Barrette

In a brief statement released late Monday, the health minister said he accepted the board members' resignation.

"I thank them for their commitment in recent years," said Barrette in the statement.

He said he and his ministry "are working in a positive and constructive fashion" with the community to continue to promote the influence of "this great institution that is the MUHC."

He called the resignations "an unfortunate event."

He told CBC News that despite the board of directors seeing a threat of trusteeship, that was never his intention.

"There were a number of auditors who came in and one even suggested that I would put the institution under trusteeship, which I said 'no' to," Barrette said.

He said the next step would be the nomination of new board members and the appointment of a new president and director general. 

with files from CBC's Patrick Butler