A physician who travelled to the Dominican Republic over the holidays has resigned from a group of experts that help guide the Ontario government’s response to COVID-19. He has also lost his CEO job at one Ontario hospital.
Dr. Tom Stewart was chief executive officer of the Niagara Health System and the St. Joseph’s Health System.
In March, the Ministry of Health welcomed Stewart to the government’s Command Table that was set up to provide strategic direction to the province about the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Late Tuesday, the ministry said it has accepted Stewart’s resignation from groups that advise the province about COVID-19.
On Wednesday, Niagara Health said it’s no longer purchasing CEO services from St. Joseph’s Health System, replacing Dr. Tom Stewart with a new president and chief executive officer.
It says the board of directors’ decision is effective immediately.
“Helen Angus, Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Health, has accepted Dr. Tom Stewart’s resignation from the Health Co-ordination Table, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, and the LTC Incident Management System Table,” the ministry said in a release.
“The people of Ontario have made countless sacrifices during the pandemic and it remains critically important that everyone continues to follow public health advice. We all have a part to play to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Stewart remains CEO at St. Joseph’s Health System.
Earlier Tuesday, Brian Guest, senior vice-president at St. Joseph’s, said Stewart was on approved vacation from Dec. 18, 2020, to Jan. 5, 2021.
He said during that time Stewart travelled to the Dominican Republic.
In the release, Stewart acknowledges the trip and urged people to avoid unnecessary travel.
“I regret this non-essential travel and I’m sorry,” Stewart said in the release. “I recognize everyone should be avoiding non-essential travel now, including me.”
The release said Stewart will be self-isolating at home for two weeks.
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In a separate release from the Niagara Health System, Stewart paid tribute to front-line staff.
“As a health system leader, my actions in no way reflect the tireless dedication and commitment of the staff and physicians at Niagara Health who go above and beyond to care for patients every day,” he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed disappointment in federal and provincial politicians who have travelled abroad, despite months of recommendations against non-essential travel.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2021.