MPP Jeff Yurek pushes local health-spending agency to detail CEO exit

By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

The board of the South West Local Health Integration Network should stop hiding from tax­payers the reasons it parted ways with the official who oversaw health-care spending for much of Southwestern Ontario, an opposition health critic said.

It’s wrong for the board to demand transparency of others while shielding the truth about the departure of chief executive Michael Barrett from Ontarians, said Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, the Progressive Conservative health critic.

“They should lead by example and at least share some details about (Barrett’s) departure,” Yurek said Monday.

The board’s acting chairperson, Andrew Chunilall, agreed to be interviewed by The Free Press during the weekend, but the board pulled that offer, then doubled-­down Monday on remaining silent.

“The board is taking the position that this is a personnel issue and a board matter,” a South West LHIN spokesperson wrote.

That stance leaves unanswered many key questions, including whether the board gave Barrett a financial package when he left.

“Any buyout borne by the LHIN needs to be transparent,” Yurek said.

Asked by The Free Press if the LHIN board should be transparent, a spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins wrote that the issue was a “local (human resources) matter” and that, “It is best that you receive comment from the LHIN.”

Barrett issued a statement last week that the LHIN included in its announcement. In it, he said: “It has been my pleasure serving the people of Southwestern Ontario, and I want to wish the LHIN, and all of its hard-working staff, well.”

The South West LHIN’s abrupt move came months after it took over a massive regional agency, a community care access centre, that oversaw home health care and long-term-care home access. The board refused to say when it decided to seek new leadership or why and also did not provide a copy of the contract that paid Barrett more than $250,000 a year.

The South West LHIN is responsible for planning, integrating and funding nearly 200 health service providers across a vast swath of Southwestern Ontario, including hospitals, long-term-care homes, mental health and addiction agencies, community support services and community health centres.

The agency’s reach covers an area that extends from Lake Erie’s north shore to the Bruce Peninsula, a region that’s home to almost one million people.

Barrett was hired by the LHIN in 2007 as a senior director, and promoted a year later to run the organization. He began his career y as a planner in 1990 in the municipalities of Zorra, South-West Oxford, Ingersoll and Tillsonburg. He also worked as the business manager for women and children’s services at the London Health Sciences Centre.