Ousted Horizon CEO pushes for ‘red phase’ of COVID in hospitals | Pro IQRA News

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The former CEO of Horizon Health wanted to move the state’s hospitals back into the “red phase” of COVID-19 measures just days before he was fired.

“A 7th wave of COVID is upon us,” Dr. John Dornan said in an email on July 11, with hospitalizations and staff infections on the rise.

A Horizon communicable disease and infection control committee “recommended moving to Hospital Red next week if the numbers continue to deteriorate,” Dornan said in an email obtained by CBC News.

Dornan wrote that officials “could make that call collectively on Monday or Tuesday of next week,” referring to July 18 and 19.

Although the numbers continued to deteriorate, red phase action never occurred.

The following Tuesday, the two health authorities reported weekly increases in COVID-19 admissions, active hospitalizations, hospital outbreaks and personnel infections between July 10 and 16.

Dornan was fired on July 15.

A key element of the red phase protocols would be to ban ordinary visitors from seeing patients in hospitals.

In his email, the then-CEO said the transition to the red phase was “conditional” after reaching agreement with Vitalité and Public Health.

However, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Tuesday that she had no idea why there was no switch to red.

“I don’t want to speak for the RHAs. They are the decision makers in this business, so they have authority over what happens in their operations,” he said.

In a July 11 email, Dornan said he would “make public this week” the possibility of Horizon entering the red phase. It’s good to be transparent.

This never happened.

At the time of Dornan’s sacking, Premier Blaine Higgs said a change in leadership was needed to break the “bureaucratic gridlock” in the health system and move forward with reforms to address long waiting lists and congested emergency departments.

Dr. Higgs in Fredericton. Everett Chalmers Hospital made the changes after a patient died while waiting for care in the emergency department.

Dr. John Dornan has been fired as CEO of Horizon Health. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Natalie Banville, Vitalité’s vice president of medical services, responded to Dornan’s July 11 email saying she had spoken with CEO France Desrosiers and that health authority officials wanted to “review the situation more closely.”

He said cases were increasing, but only two of Vitalité’s 17 admissions were “related to COVID.”

“We need to look more closely at the epidemiology and the zone situation before going into the red phase,” Banville said, adding that Vitalité management will meet on July 12 and respond with a recommendation.

Dornan thanked him and said Horizon would “try to be on the same page.” It’s not clear what Vitalite recommended the next day or why Dornan’s replacement, interim CEO Margaret Melanson, didn’t follow through on his plan.

Unlike Dornan, Desrosiers remains CEO of Vitalité.

Dornan declined an interview request from CBC News about the email. “I have no comment,” he said Wednesday.

In a statement to CBC News, Melanson said Horizon has “learned more about the virus” during the pandemic and can now take “more targeted and flexible” measures while protecting essential services and allowing visitors.

The statement did not address why Dornan felt differently and opted for a full transition to the red phase less than four weeks ago.

Three days after his email and a day before he was fired as CEO, Dornan encouraged Horizon employees in an internal memo to “consider setting an example” by wearing masks in indoor public spaces because of the “increasing” number of COVID-19 transmissions.

A Health Department spokeswoman said on July 18 that Dornan’s firing was “unrelated” to the memo.

Horizon and Vitalité went into the red phase on December 31st during a spike in Omicron cases. They returned to the orange phase on June 20.

Dornan’s July 11 email referred to the incoming “seventh wave,” though state public health officials have refrained from using the term.

Russell told the Brunswick News on July 12 that he could not define future increases as waves.

“I don’t want to call it a wave in the sense that everybody defines it differently. I’m saying it’s an increase in the number of cases,” he said. “Surge or no surge, we’re seeing an increase in the level of activity in COVID.”

From July 10 to 16, the same week Dornan wrote the email and was fired, 30 people were newly admitted to hospitals due to COVID-19, up from 15 the previous week.

From July 17 to 23, this number increased again and reached 40 people.

There were 209 patients in the two health authorities from July 10 to 16. This rose to 229 in the week of July 17-23.

As of July 16, 84 active COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized at Horizon and Vitalité. A week later it rose to 90.

The number of weekly new cases fell last week for the first time in weeks. The numbers tracked infections from July 17 to 23, and officials said it could indicate that hospitalizations, which had been lagging for a week or two, would soon peak and begin to decline.

The weekly number of new cases fell again and the number of hospital admissions and active hospitalizations for COVID-19 fell slightly in new figures released on Wednesday, July 24-30.