A public policy consultant says it is not necessary for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to disclose the reasons behind former CEO Scott Livingstone’s departure.

However, he says a lack of transparency could pose challenges when looking for a replacement. Livingstone gave his resignation last week, according to the SHA.

“There’s no obligation cast upon Scott Livingstone to disclose publicly why he resigned,” said public policy consultant Dennis Kendel.

According to Kendel, CEO contracts often have “notice requirements” for leaving a job, which usually need a minimum of three months notice.

However, he says early resignation can happen for a number of personal reasons, including illness or stress. Kendel emphasized he has no insight into the reasons for Livingstone’s departure.

“I have been impressed with the way he has performed in his role with the SHA,” he said.

“I don’t think there is cause to believe that anything about Mr. Livingstone’s performance itself led to this outcome.”

During Thursday’s physician town hall, SHA chief medical officer Dr. Susan Shaw notified everyone of Livingstone’s resignation.

“I can’t speak to his reasons for choosing to move on from his role of CEO as those discussions are between Scott and the board,” Shaw said.

“I know he will be finding new ways of giving back and providing leadership. I know he is well. So, as his friend, I wish him the best.”

While Kendel says the leadership change likely will not impact day-to-day healthcare services, effective management of the healthcare system all depends on the “working relationship” between the interim CEO, the SHA board, the Ministry of Health and Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.

Kendel suggests all parties need to re-evaluate the distribution of roles and responsibilities to understand if a lack of clarity resulted in Livingstone’s resignation.

“If we end up with protracted stress within the management structure in the SHA, it’s conceivable that other people walk away from their roles,” Kendel said.

“That could be very, very problematic for us all.”

SEARCHING FOR A NEW CEO

Andrew Will, vice-president of infrastructure, information and support with the SHA, will serve as the interim CEO, while the health authority looks for a permanent replacement.

Kendel says hiring for the job could take time.

According to the SHA’s 2021 annual report, the Livingstone’s salary was $409,143. However, Kendel estimates that is only about half of what qualified individuals would make in similar roles in other province’s like Ontario.

“I wouldn’t say the compensation in Saskatchewan for this job would be a big lure,” said Kendel, adding a lack of clarity around the reasons for Livinstone’s departure could make potential candidates hesitant to apply.

“[Applicants] want to be sure they are not entering into a situation which is fraught with a lot of stress beyond what they might be willing to accept,” he said.

CTV News reached out to the health authority to inquire about the circumstances surrounding Livingstone’s resignation.

In a statement, the board said it is “grateful for Scott’s leadership through some very challenging times” and it will not be commenting further on his decision to move on from the role as CEO.

The SHA board is responsible for the selection and hiring of a chief executive officer. The board is made up of 10 members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, according to the SHA’s website.

“When you are a CEO for an organization that has a board appointed by the government there is accountability, but it generally ought to flow through the board,” Kendel said, adding he would expect regular communication between the board chair and deputy health minister.

However, Kendel says sometimes CEOs in these types of positions will meet with the government minister or deputy minister instead of the board.

“It does create potential strain because legally they are accountable to the board and not directly to the minister or the deputy,” Kendel said.

RECENT TURNOVER IN SHA

Livingstone is not the only SHA official to leave his post this year.

According to the SHA, chief operating officer Suann Laurent retired at the end of October. Her retirement was announced to SHA leadership teams, but it was not made public.

As CEO, Livingstone assumed Laurent’s roles and responsibilities. However, the COO position is now vacant, according to the SHA. It is unclear if it will be filled.

On top of the two of the highest ranked officials leaving in the last month, the SHA board appointed a new chair and vice-chair in June.

Arlene Wiks is serving as the chairperson. Tyler Bragg is the vice-chair.

Kendel says it is not necessarily surprising, as board appointments often have a term associated with them.

“It is interesting though that there was quite a significant turnover in board membership within the last six months,” he said.

“It does create some greater uncertainly because not only are some of the board members still relatively new in their role, but there was quite a turnover.”

On the other hand, Kendel says there is some merit in “new blood” coming into the roles, adding boards can become stayed if members are on too long.