Ex-hospital CEO #1 on Hamilton ‘sunshine list’ of public employees


Published March 25, 2022 at 6:45 pm

Dr. Thomas Stewart flew to be close to the Caribbean sun when that was a no-no, but still topped the sunshine list in Hamilton.

The former health system CEO parted from St. Joseph’s Health System one week into 2021 after a non-essential trip to the Dominican Republic. But he was last year’s No. 1 Hamilton-based public sector worker on the “sunshine list.”

The annual list of Ontario public sector workers across Ontario who were paid more than $100,000 in 2021 was released on Friday (March 25). The list shows that Dr. Stewart earned $755,796.52 in 2021, plus some taxable benefits, as the former chief executive officer for St. Joe’s which operates hospitals in Hamilton and four other cities. He resigned on Jan. 7, 2021 during the fallout from the discovery that he took a two-week overseas trip, amid the hard-hitting second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

Contractual terms said Stewart was entitled to a payout of his salary for up to 24 months, according to media reports.

The trip was approved by St. Joe’s, while access to COVID-19 vaccines were still weeks and months away for most Canadian adults. At that stage, the federal government was advising against non-essential foreign travel. The province had also asked Ontario residents to forego foreign vacations in order to control the spread of COVID-19.

Stewart resigned from Ontario’s COVID-19 advisory table, and also parted as CEO of Niagara Health, which was purchasing CEO services from St. Joe’s. He said at the time he was “sorry” for taking a non-essential trip and that his “actions in no way reflect the tireless dedication and commitment of the staff at St. Joseph’s Health System.”

Ajax MPP Rod Phillips also resigned his position as Ontario finance minister during the first days of 2021 after it was discovered he had also travelled to the Caribbean, to St. Barts. But Phillips kept his trip a secret. He later returned to Premier Doug Ford’s Ontario PC Party cabinet as long-term care minister, before resigning from that in January of this year.

The 11 highest-paid public sector workers in Hamilton were all health-system executives. Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) president and CEO Rob MacIsaac was paid just more than $636,000 last year, putting him second on the “sunshine list” within the city.

St. Joe’s president Melissa Horner earned $500,000. St. Joe’s interim CEO Winnie Doyle, who was appointed after Stewart’s departure, earned $458,000 last year. David McCaig, an executive VP at HHS, earned about $446,000.

The city’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson was paid about $373,500, tops in the city for a public employee who is not directly employed at HHS or St. Joe’s.

The annual “sunshine list” was created in 1996 under an Ontario PC Party government led by then-premier Mike Harris. However, the threshold has been fixed at $100,000 since its creation, without adjustments for inflation. The Bank of Canada inflation calculator says $100,000 in 1996 dollars would have been about $157,660 in 2021.

About 244,000 employees made the list in 2021.

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