A prominent GTA critical care physician is alleging he was fired over his outspoken criticism of Ontario’s pandemic response.
Dr. Brooks Fallis said in an emailed statement to the Star he learned his contract as interim medical director of critical care at William Osler Health System had been terminated in January.
“When I met with some of the members of the senior leadership team about this, I was told I was being let go as Interim Medical Director — not because of my performance as a physician or as a hospital leader — but because of my outspoken, public statements regarding Ontario’s pandemic response,” his statement said.
“As a result of my actions, the hospital was under pressure from the Provincial Government, leading to concern about the possible loss of funding for the hospital.”
Ivana Yelich, director of media relations for the premier’s office, said in an email that they “have never heard of this individual, and the allegation he is making is categorically false.”
In an email, William Osler spokesperson Donna Harris denied any provincial direction or guidance relating to HR matters at any time.
“Any suggestion otherwise is absolutely false,” she said.
“In order to respect privacy and confidentiality, Osler is unable to comment on human resources matters relating to individual staff and physicians,” she added.
The Medical Director of Critical Care role “is an interim one,” she said, and the hospital has recently announced the launch of a comprehensive open process to recruit a permanent physician for the role.
“Dr. Fallis has been an extraordinarily committed physician leader over the past year, and continues to be a critical part of our COVID-19 response efforts; we thank him for his leadership and service to Osler.”
Fallis said the decision to let him go was “a surprise” as he had been given “positive” feedback over the past year in the role, and had already received an offer to extend his contract.
“As a physician, my greatest responsibility is to care for people. In these times of uncertainty, my only goal in speaking out is to advocate for informed decision making and a better, more transparent response to the COVID crisis. I do not regret doing that. I will continue to serve as a critical care physician at William Osler,” he said in the statement.
He added that after receiving an email notifying him of the termination from the chief of staff and CEO, he requested a Zoom meeting with members of senior leadership three days later, where he was informed of the reasons he was being let go.
Fallis’s colleagues expressed support for him in a letter to hospital leadership signed by 23 members of the Osler’s ICU Physician Group, who praised him as an “an exemplary leader.”
“The ICU physician group is shocked and saddened by this news,” states the letter. “We do not understand, and therefore cannot support, senior leadership’s decision to terminate Dr. Fallis at this time.”
The letter states that Fallis received an offer to extend his position last December.
“We are proud of the voice that he has given ICU physicians caring for the sickest patients amid the pandemic. Our institution gains strength from embracing diverse viewpoints and being open to respectful discourse.”
Fallis is active on Twitter, where in recent days he has been calling out the province to do more to control the spread of the new British variant.
His accusations come on the heels of criticism by the premier of another prominent local voice on the pandemic, Dr. David Fisman. Fisman, a member of Ontario’s Science Table, also consulted for the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.