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Dr. John Dornan is the former president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network. Image: Submitted

Former Horizon CEO Awarded $2M In Unjust Dismissal Case

By Brad Perry Feb 16, 2023 | 12:38 PM

The former CEO of one of New Brunswick’s two health authorities has been awarded more than $2 million in an unjust dismissal case.

Lawyers for Dr. John Dornan say it is the largest employment compensation award ever awarded in the province.

Dornan was named president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network in March 2022. He had held that position on an interim basis since the previous August.

But in July, just a few months into his five-year mandate, Dornan was fired by Premier Blaine Higgs as part of a major shakeup to the province’s health-care system.

The changes — which also saw Dorothy Shephard shuffled out as health minister — followed the death of a man waiting for care in the emergency room of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton.

“I’m prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect and improve the health care system in our province,” Higgs told reporters at the time.

The premier also dumped the boards of directors of the regional health authorities and replaced them with two trustees.

One of Dornan’s lawyers said the award, which includes $200,000 in aggravated damages, accurately reflects the losses suffered by his client.

Kelly VanBuskirk said Dornan spent more than 30 years building his reputation as a physician and a healthcare executive.

“As clinician, he had first-hand knowledge of the problems in the system and a plan to fix them,” VanBuskirk said in a news release.

“In the span of an hour, Dr. Dornan’s reputation was shredded at the altar of someone’s political agenda.”

VanBuskirk said Dornan’s treatment was the “definition of bad faith,” adding he was “unceremoniously fired in the parking lot” just before the July 2022 news conference began.

Howard Levitt, who also represented the ousted CEO, said the premier “threw John Dornan under the bus in a public, disingenuous and callous manner, just minutes after he fired him.”

“To make matters worse, Dr. Dornan was advised by a physician recruitment agency that the New Brunswick government had acted to prevent him from obtaining employment elsewhere,” Levitt said in the release.

According to Levitt, Dornan could not go back to his endocrinology practice in Saint John because he had already recruited someone to take it over.

Dornan, in the release, said he was a “political scapegoat” and the consequences were profound for himself, his family and his reputation.

“Nobody should have their career and livelihood taken away like that,” said Dornan. “I hope this decision goes some way towards restoring my reputation and allowing me to resume my career.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said they are reviewing the decision and have no other comment at this time.

Premier Blaine Higgs was asked about the decision during an unrelated news conference on Thursday afternoon.

“The decision made is still to be evaluated. I’ll wait for our legal folks to give me a determination on that,” Higgs told reporters.

Susan Holt, leader of the New Brunswick Liberals, said the premier’s “lack of appreciation for the consequences of his actions” has cost taxpayers more than $2 million.

“There are consequences to disrespecting your team, dismissing employees like it’s no big deal and throwing people under the bus,” Holt said in a post on Twitter.

You can view the full decision by clicking here.


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