• Wed. Dec 6th, 2023

Health Administration

Come One, Come All To Health Administration

Online petition targets Sudbury’s top hospital administrator

Organizer Patrick Crowe says Dominic Giroux should step down in light of Laurentian University’s financial woes. Giroux served as Laurentian president before moving to Health Sciences North

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A Sudbury resident is calling on Dominic Giroux to step down as president and CEO of Health Sciences North, after details of his role in Laurentian University’s financial downfall were revealed last month.

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In July, local filmmaker Patrick Crowe started a change.org petition to voice his concerns about Giroux’s ongoing employment with the hospital in light of what happened at Laurentian. Since then, more than 300 other community members have signed in support of Crowe’s demands for Giroux to be replaced.

“I’m sickened by the spectacle of the good-ole boy meritocracy of our city, failing upwards without any accountability for very significant errors of judgement,” said Crowe.

The Sudbury Star made multiple attempts to reach Health Sciences North and Dominic Giroux for comment but did not receive a reply.

HSN Board chair Daniel Giroux (who is of no relation to Dominic Giroux) previously issued a statement expressing the Board’s support of Giroux and praising his contributions to the hospital during his tenure.

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“The HSN Board has full confidence in the leadership of its President and CEO,” he wrote. “The Board is extremely confident in the job Dominic has done as CEO – a job that was recently validated by being chosen by his peers to be the Chair of the Ontario Hospital Association at a time of great challenge in Ontario’s health care sector.”

While personal matters put the petition on the backburner for a few months, Crowe said the release of the Auditor Generals’ report about Laurentian’s problems in November compelled him to take up the cause once again with renewed energy.

“(The report) very squarely identifies responsibility of the unravelling to an ill-considered capital building campaign that started under the reign of Dominic Giroux,” said Crowe. “We’ve come to know more about the errors of judgment that were made.”

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Among Crowe’s concerns is Giroux’s lack of administrative experience in the sector, something he notes previous local health-care administrators had. Giroux received similar criticisms, for his lack of experience in post-secondary administration, when he was hired by Laurentian.

Before joining the university, the majority of his experience was as assistant deputy to then-Education Minister Ben Levin. He also spent time as chief financial officer for Ottawa’s Catholic School Board and a board member for the Canadian Education Association and Education Quality and Accountability Office.

But even at the time, the Canadian Association of University Teachers complained he didn’t have a PhD and had never been a professor. Then-executive director Jim Turn called his hiring “highly unusual” in a 2010 Toronto Star article.

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“The tradition at Canadian universities is that the president is seen as the lead academic, a distinguished scholar, and there’s good reason for that,” he said.

In 2021, Giroux made $368,948, plus $12,813 in benefits as hospital CEO. Reports also say he made another $80,000 as president and CEO of the Health Sciences North Research Institute.

The report also said that in the spring, the hospital board renewed Giroux’s contract for five years.

Laurentian’s senior administrators, ‘weak’ board led university to ruin: Lysyk

Laurentian’s misuse of funds obscured by lack of transparency: report

Auditor general’s report sheds light on Laurentian’s secretive dealings

When asked if Giroux’s conduct in his current role raised any concerns, Crowe said it wasn’t relevant to the need for accountability.

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“It doesn’t matter if he’s suddenly become the best administrator,” he said. “The circumstances are so egregious that it demands for him to remove himself from this position if he truly cares about the public that he serves. The faculty at a renowned university can lose their jobs without having done anything wrong … I don’t see why he should be accorded even more special treatment.”

The petition demands that Giroux be removed immediately and replaced with a “qualified administrator with expertise” in health care for northeastern Ontario. While Crowe doesn’t have a specific goal for signatures, he said a previous campaign for a separate issue garnered support from more than 3,500 community members.

He said he expects a similar number of people have similar concerns here.

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“There is a responsibility to the public to manage their institutions responsibility,” said Crowe. “The stakes are too high. The health care needs of over half a million people across northeastern Ontario are in danger. Can we really gamble upon Mr. Giroux having learned his lesson about reckless financial decisions and just hope it’s going to work out?”

Report details Giroux’s conduct at Laurentian 

In November, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk released her report of Laurentian University, which painted damning picture of the conduct of senior management and the university’s board of governors. Giroux, who was president from 2009 to 2017, was at the centre of a massive capital spending campaign, despite the university’s already sizeable debts.

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Three major projects were approved during his tenor, including the $20.6-million East Residence, the $5.9-million Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research Lab, and the $44.5-million school of architecture. He was also a key proponent of the campus modernization campaign, which ended with a price tag of $59 million.

“In spite of the increasingly poor financial condition of the university, the administration continued to pursue major capital expansion instead of addressing the accumulating annual financial deficits,” said Lysyk.

Overall, Laurentian invested $168 million in capital projects from 2009 to 2020, without consideration for their long-term sustainability and the risks associated with the rapid growth in debt, the report said.

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In 2013, Giroux supported a proposal to delay the plan to eliminate accumulated debt from 2019 to 2028, the report said. Giroux, who was then president and vice-chancellor, is quoted in the report as saying the proposal was “definitely a signature moment.”

He also recommended a change to the university’s debt policy in 2010, according to the report, allowing certain types of debt to be excluded from calculations. His recommendation was accepted by the university’s board of governors. As a result, the university incurred more debt for the construction of a new student residence that otherwise would’ve violated their own debt limiting ratios, according to the report.

Said Lysyk, “This policy change was based on a recommendation from the president, who indicated that without making the debt policy less restrictive, Laurentian would not be in a position to propose a new student residence on campus and stay in compliance with the policy.”

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Throughout his tenure, the report said, senior administrators at Laurentian were paid more than legislative restrictions allowed. From 2010 to 2020, salary costs rose by 75 per cent, according to the report, only declining in 2018, after Giroux had left. The report also found that in 2014, they went so far as to change the job titles of seven executives to avoid legislatively imposed salary caps.

Lysyk also noted that Giroux’s departure from Laurentian in 2017 was also an expensive endeavor for the university.

“The former president had an unusually advantageous 2014 employment contract,” she said. “It afforded him one year of paid administrative leave at full salary for each full five-year term completed and the right to eventually return to Laurentian as a full professor at the 90th percentile or higher of a full professor’s salary, despite having never worked as a professor.”

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

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Twitter: @mia_rjensen


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