The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is fighting back against claims made by the hospital’s former CEO, Paul Woods, who was fired earlier this month after it was revealed he had travelled outside of the country five times during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, Woods filed a $2.5-million lawsuit against LHSC, claiming he was dismissed in bad faith and that the chair of the hospital’s board of directors was notified about his travels to the United States. Woods’ lawsuit also included a claim in damages for “loss of reputation,” along with a claim that the hospital breached sections of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
In a statement of defence dated Thursday, prepared by Toronto-based firm Stookwoods LLP, the LHSC denies Woods’ claims and is asking the Ontario Superior Court to dismiss his action with costs. The statement indicates that Woods is entitled to his base salary for up to 12 months, as indicated in his contract.
Statements of claim and defence include allegations not yet proven in court.
The statement addresses the “pronounced negative reaction” from hospital staff, physicians and stakeholders who learned about Woods’ trips in early January. One of the trips took place a month after he reprimanded hospital staff for not abiding by public health guidelines as the facility dealt with several deadly COVID-19 outbreaks.
“It quickly became clear that Dr. Woods had lost the moral authority to lead the hospital and his employment was terminated. Rather than accepting responsibility for his own choices, Dr. Woods has attempted to shift the blame to LHSC’s volunteer Board of Directors,” the statement read.
“To the extent that Dr. Woods’ reputation has been harmed, it is a result of his own poor judgment and hypocrisy.”
The statement of defence also denied Woods’ allegations that the chair of the board of directors, Amy Walby, who has since resigned from the position, had approved his travels.
“It is not the role of the Board of a public hospital to approve personal travel by hospital employees, nor is there any mechanism for it to do so. Furthermore, Dr. Woods did mislead the Board by withholding important information,” the statement read.
According to the document, Walby was aware of “aspects” of his travel, but he did not tell her that two senior hospital executives had raised concerns to Woods about it.
“When confronted with these issues, Dr. Woods grew angry,” the statement alleges about the time senior staff raised concerns. “He told them not to question his judgment.”
The statement of defence says Woods made at least five cross-border trips between March and December of 2020, including visits to his family in Michigan as well as a trip to Florida in October.
Since the pandemic was declared, the federal government has been advising Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country.