Health minister fires vocal board chair for Horizon Health Network

·2 min read
John McGarry has been removed from his role as chair of the board for Horizon Health Network. (CBC - image credit)
John McGarry has been removed from his role as chair of the board for Horizon Health Network. (CBC - image credit)

The chair of the board for Horizon Health Network has been fired.

Health Minister Dorothy Shephard made the decision to remove John McGarry from his position, said Bruce Macfarlane, spokesperson for the Department of Health, in an email Friday.

Shephard wasn't made available for an interview Friday afternoon, and Horizon deferred all comment to the provincial government.

The move comes just a week after McGarry criticized the Department of Health when Shephard said it would take the lead on recruiting physicians to work in New Brunswick.

During a board of directors meeting last Friday, McGarry said he was "perturbed" by that plan, and cast doubt on the Department of Health's ability to successfully recruit doctors.

"It all begins and ends with the hospital and the physicians groups, so I'm really perturbed with this statement of government saying we're taking over recruitment, and [I'm] thinking, 'Well, good luck'," McGarry said, at the time.

McGarry first joined Horizon as its CEO in February 2013, and in April 2016, announced he would not to be renewing his four-year contract.

In January 2019, McGarry was hired again under former health minister Ted Flemming, this time to work as Horizon's board chair.

Vocal about ideas on health-care reform

During his time as CEO, McGarry was outspoken about the need for major reforms to New Brunswick's health-care system to fix issues around wait times and hospital overcrowding.

In 2015, McGarry raised eyebrows when he tweeted about what he called a "crisis" of congestion in New Brunswick hospitals.

"Horizon Health network called for urgent action in January, Nurses Association of New Brunswick is now, all regional hospitals are facing intolerable congestion," he posted on Twitter.

"When will system sit down as one and fix the worsening situation of alternative levels of care and long term care for patients who need their hospital care? Please someone tell us what it will take?"

Then in a commentary piece he wrote in January 2016, McGarry said it was time to move away from the concept that all care must occur in hospitals, and embrace a model with fewer emergency rooms and improved care in communities.

By closing some hospitals and freeing up money, more could be invested in community health care, he said, at the time.

That same year, then-premier Brian Gallant declared there would be no major cuts to health care, which McGarry publicly disagreed with, saying smaller hospitals needed to close.

And last year, it was revealed that Horizon's board had approved a plan by Premier Blaine Higgs to close the nighttime operations of emergency departments at six small hospitals.

That plan was quickly scrapped following swift backlash from the public.