Sask. Health Authority rehires former VP who was paid $175K in severance — then changes its mind

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it offered a job to a former vice-president of the Sunrise Health Region, but then ultimately decided against rehiring the VP.

Offer to rehire vice-president was not consistent with the spirit of voluntary separation packages: SHA

Scott Livingstone, CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and Dick Carter, chair of the board, discussed the first year of the amalgamated health authority on Tuesday. Amalgamation resulted in the loss of some health region executive positions, with the SHA reporting that as of mid-August, it had paid about $5 million to 13 people who accepted severance packages. (CBC News)

The Opposition NDP has questions after the Saskatchewan Health Authority changed its mind on rehiring a former vice-president who earned $175,000 in severance, deciding bringing the executive back "was not consistent with the spirit of the voluntary separation packages."

"Has this happened on other occasions? Are there others who did receive the severance and are now under the employ of the SHA in similar or new roles?" Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili asked Friday.

"Is there consistency in the application of the policy, would be another part of this."

The SHA recently celebrated its one-year anniversary as a single health network, after amalgamating 12 health regions into one system in December 2017.

Amalgamation resulted in the loss of some health region executive positions, with the SHA reporting that as of mid-August, it had paid some $5 million to 13 people who accepted severance packages.

One of those voluntary packages was received by a former vice-president at the Sunrise Health Region, who earned $175,543 prior to the SHA's creation, according to its 2017-18 annual report.

Since then, the health authority confirmed in a statement that the former executive was offered a job and accepted.

"However, this was reviewed prior to [their] start date. It was determined that the offer was not consistent with the spirit of the voluntary separation packages. Therefore, we are not proceeding with employing this individual."

The authority would not comment any further on the issue, or whether it had a policy in place to deal with such matters, saying "this is a personnel matter and we are not able to comment any further."

Todd MacKay with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says people who took severance packages should not be barred from working for the same organization, but timing is as factor, as is what happens to their compensation. (CBC News)

Todd MacKay, the Prairie director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said amalgamation is a complex undertaking for human resources, with many people moving into different roles.

That's why, he said, it's important organizations have clearly defined policies to protect both the organization and employees.

"This is a part of that process, though. This is why it's a big job — it's not just as simple as changing business cards. You have to stay on top of all of this stuff," he said. 

"Severance is [a] part of it that has to be managed carefully."

Speaking generally, MacKay said he doesn't believe taking a severance package should exclude qualified individuals from being rehired by the same organization, but timing would be a factor, as would a decision about what to do with the compensation.

Meili believes the Saskatchewan Health Authority should explain what its policies are when it comes to severance. 

"This is a public institution spending public dollars. Questions about how those are spent are absolutely valid."

About the Author

Stephanie Taylor

Reporter, CBC Saskatchewan

Stephanie Taylor is a reporter based in Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC News in Regina, she covered municipal politics in her hometown of Winnipeg and in Halifax. Reach her at stephanie.taylor@cbc.ca