REGINA — The Saskatchewan Health Authority board of directors has declined to share details regarding a recent exodus of several leaders in high-ranking positions within the past two weeks.
Board members fielded questions during a public meeting on Dec. 8, made available virtually to media and members of the public.
Three departures within SHA leadership have been made public as of last week, beginning with the quiet retirement of chief operating officer Suann Laurent, followed by the resignations of chief executive officer Scott Livingstone and board member Dr. Janet Tootoosis.
The SHA said that Laurent retired at the end of October, at which time no public announcement was made. Tootoosis left the board in November, and Livingstone's tendered resignation was announced on Dec. 2.
Board chair Arlene Wiks said that the board is unable to comment on the interactions with these individuals during their exit, as they are a “privileged personal matter.”
During her report, Wiks thanked Livingstone for his work for the SHA, and added that it is not an ideal time to see him leave.
“Given the critical care services that the SHA provides, there’s probably never an ideal time for a transition of this nature to occur,” said Wiks. “I’m hopeful that we can focus on the positive impact [Livingstone] has had on our healthcare system and its leaders.”
No details regarding the terms of Livingstone’s departure can be shared at this time, said Wiks.
Interim CEO Andrew Will, formerly the vice-president of infrastructure, information and support, was welcomed during the public meeting.
Will thanked Livingstone for his service and commitment to the SHA and pledged to continue to serve the province diligently.
“I will make every effort to advance the board’s commitment to patient-, resident- and family-centred care,” said Will.
Internal shuffles were also approved during the meeting, to cover Will’s shift to interim CEO.
Derek Miller, executive director of emergency operations, will be moving into the vice-president of infrastructure, information and support position for the time being, in addition to his current duties.
Due to this change, emergency response duties will now be shared between Miller and Dr. Kevin Wasco, physician executive for integrated rural health.
John Ash, currently the executive director of acute care in Regina, will also temporarily fill in as lead of emergency operations in Miller’s wake.
Karen Earnshaw, vice-president of integrated rural health, was also appointed operational responsibility for mental health and addictions services in the province.
The position of COO remains vacant following the departure of Laurent, confirmed the board, as does the open board position left by Tootoosis. Both vacancies will be filled eventually, said Wiks.
A succession and recruitment committee has also begun work to find a candidate for the position of CEO. Updates on the recruitment process will be shared publicially as things progress, said Wiks.
Former board member Tootoosis, who was the only medical doctor serving on the board, told media following her resignation that she did so due to burnout concerns. She said she felt immense pressure and little recognition during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic situation.
When asked whether mental health supports for leadership within the SHA have since been reviewed or addressed, Will said the board and senior leadership remains “committed to our continued efforts” despite COVID-related pressure.
During the question portion of the public meeting, Wiks also said that she was not aware of any pressure from Ministry of Health officials to make changes to the leadership structure within the SHA, as implied by comments from opposition leader Ryan Meili during session earlier in the week.
“We have discussions regarding succession planning and the composition of the SHA on a continuous basis, and we are always talking to the minister [of health] regarding that,” said Wiks.
The next public meeting of the SHA board is on March 2, 2022.