LONDON, ONT. -- The sudden departure of two more top-executives from the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is raising new questions tonight about executive compensation at public hospitals.

Neil Johnson, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, as well as Susan Nickle, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Chief People Officer are no longer employed by the hospital.

The hospital notified staff of the departures on Wednesday.

Johnson worked at the hospital in various leadership roles over 33 years, and recently oversaw the mass vaccination clinic at the Western Fair District Agriplex.

Nickles was hired in 2013.

The London Health Coalition’s Peter Bergmanis questions if three departures among the hospital’s top brass in just the last six months risks creating a leadership gap.

“This is a very disconcerting distraction again, at a time of pandemic when all resources should be focussed on struggling COVID-19 to the ground,” says Bergmanis.

In January, former CEO Dr. Paul Woods had his contract terminated by LHSC after the public learned he had travelled to the United States during the pandemic.

On Thursday, a request to interview both Interim CEO Jackie Schleifer Taylor and Board Chair Phyllis Retty were declined by the hospital’s communications department.

Instead, a three-sentence statement was emailed to CTV News which confirmed the departures, wished Johnson and Nickle the best in their future endeavours, and expressed the hospital’s ongoing commitment to deliver high quality healthcare.

LHSC statement

Subsequent questions emailed from CTV News did not receive a response.

Those questions included:

  • Were the contract terminations the decision of the Interim CEO, the hospital board, or both?
  • Were the contract terminations ‘with cause’ or ‘without cause’?

If severance is paid according to Johnson and Nickles’ employment contracts, is that the best use of more than $750,000 of health care dollars?

CTV News has yet to receive a reply.

According to their most recent contracts, and based on the public disclosure of their 2020 salaries:

  •  Termination without cause would see Susan Nickle owed 40 weeks of severance, totalling $189,288.
  •  Termination without cause would see Neil Johnson receive 104 weeks of severance totalling $576,576.

“This is a lot of money not going to any (healthcare) service,” says Bergmanis. “We have to cap the top wage scales, especially in public hospitals.”

Earlier this year, former CEO Paul Woods filed a $3.5 million dollar lawsuit against the hospital following his contract’s termination.

CTV News attempted to reach both Johnson and Nickle for comment, but has not yet receive responses.