London, Ont. hospital CEO apologizes for international travel during pandemic
MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- Dr. Paul Woods, president and CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), is apologizing for his travel to the U.S. to see family in recent months.
LHSC confirms that Woods, who is a Canadian citizen but holds a green card in the U.S., has travelled there five times since March 2020, including from Dec. 19-25, 2020, just before the provincial lockdown took effect.
In an internal memo obtained by CTV News, Woods says he understands his travel could cause frustration given his requests that staff follow public safety measures.
"Hindsight will always be 20/20 and I cannot turn back the clock. What I can do is take accountability for my decision to visit with immediate family out of country and fully apologize."
A leaked letter from Woods to LHSC staff during a series of outbreaks at University Hospital prompted criticism for its tone, which was described as 'blaming and shaming' workers.
In it he said, “…as health-care workers we must set ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to living and modelling public health guidelines both inside and outside our workplace.”
Woods, who has family in Michigan, added that he will stop travelling until federal restrictions on non-essential travel are lifted, and acknowledged the discrepancy between his actions and what he has asked of LHSC staff.
"Please do not let my actions deter you from continuing to set the example for our community; LHSC is far greater than one individual and now, more than ever, our community will look to you...Please accept my deepest regret for the impact my actions may have on you and your colleagues."
But James Gibbons of the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) Local 100 says members are feeling let down after the revelation.
“We lead by example, we expect more from our CEO of LHSC. He’s failed us and we, the Ontario Nurses' Association, are quite disappointed in the decisions he’s made to travel back and forth from the United States and ignoring public health guidelines.“
Gibbons added that many members made sacrifices over the holiday season, and knowing Woods travelled for Christmas is very disappointing.
In a statement, LHSC said it was aware of Woods' trips.
"Dr. Woods lives alone and made these trips to visit his immediate family in the United States. In addition to these extenuating circumstances, Dr. Woods followed public health guidelines and mitigated risk by driving across the border, staying in one place while in the US, and quarantining upon his return."
Amy Walby, chair of LHSC's board of directors, added that they were aware of his continued travel and support his continued leadership at the hospital.
"We believe it is in the best interest of the system to maintain stability at the CEO level at such tumultuous times.”
That has not been the attitude at other hospitals though.
Dr. Thomas Stewart was president and CEO of the St. Joseph's Health System in Hamilton and CEO of Niagara Health.
The Ontario doctor is no longer in either position after vacationing in the Dominican Republic for 19 days.
He also resigned from his advisory role on the province’s COVID-19 science table and apologized.
Woods' salary from 2019 with benefits totaled $605,000.