New hospital boss wants to listen, but has eye on health care spending

David Musyj, with 17 years experience as a hospital chief executive, sat down with The London Free Press Wednesday to discuss next steps.

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Southwestern Ontario’s largest hospital, London Health Sciences Centre, mired in controversy and deep in debt, has named David Musyj, chief executive at Windsor Regional Hospital, its acting chief executive for an indefinite period. LHSC is more than $76 million in debt and last year spent nearly $500,0000 to send executives on junkets around the world, sparking a Health Ministry investigation and the sudden departure of its chief executive Jackie Schleifer Taylor, who remains on leave. Musyj, with 17 years experience as a hospital chief executive, sat down with The London Free Press to discuss next steps.

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Q: There have been suggestions you were brought in by the Ontario Health Ministry to restructure London Health Sciences Centre. Is that true?

A:  No. The (LHSC) board of directors approached myself and our board of directors (at Windsor Regional Hospital). Is the Ministry aware of the appointment? Sure, of course.

Q: Can you speak to the Ministry investigation into the situation here at LHSC?

A: I am aware of it and I am aware it’s ongoing. It’s not related to this. I wasn’t brought in as part of the investigation, or to address it at all. I haven’t been (told) the scope of it other than policies on expenses and travel.

Q: What will you be doing at LHSC?

A: I have no written agenda or terms of reference from the government of Ontario or from the ministry other than to come and provide stability and add to the strength. That’s the goal. What I plan on doing from the start is listening. I have sent requests to 100 individuals to meet with them on a one-on-one basis internally and external to the organization. I will ask five simple but important questions and I have done this the last 17 years as CEO of Windsor Regional, every two years.

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Q: What are those five questions?

A: The five questions I ask are:

  • What does London Health Sciences Centre do well?
  • What is London Health Sciences Centre not doing well?
  • What should London Health Sciences Centre start doing?
  • What should London Health Sciences Centre stop doing?
  • What general advice can you offer?

I will compile that on a confidential basis and share it with individuals. The goal is to listen, there is no agenda. 

Q: It is fair to say LHSC has come under criticism for spending. The deficit has increased by about $30-million in one year and only a few years ago it was in surplus. Do you have your eye on the budget and getting spending under control?

A: Definitely, But the numbers for an organization this size pale in comparison to most others in the province of Ontario. London Health Sciences Centre is not unique in what they’re facing, far from unique. There is clearly an eye on the ball to deal with the deficit situation and I have already been apprised of the work they’re doing. It’s a big number but in context, far from being unique. 

Q: Windsor Regional has a balanced budget.

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A: We do now. Coming into this year based on inflationary expectations I will be very surprised if there’s a hospital in Ontario with a balanced budget this year.

Q: There has been a lot of discussion about the nearly $500,000 LHSC spent on executive travel in 2023. Is it fair to say this will not happen on your watch?

A. There are no trips planned and I haven’t experienced that in my tenure at Windsor Regional. My job right now is to look forward and not back. Of course we learn from the past not to repeat it, so that’s what we will do.

Q: There has been suggestions LHSC is top-heavy, there are a lot of senior executives. There are 22 listed on the LHSC website. Are you aware of this and are you concerned about it?

 A: That will be part of the information I hope to gain over the next few weeks but without knowing the details we have to remember the size of London Health Sciences Centre. (It is) one of the largest hospitals in Ontario, so they have a number of senior executives. Whether it fits with comparable hospitals, that’s the work to be done. It’s too early to speculate whether it’s too high or too low, but will I look at that? Of course.

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Q: You have a track record of controlling costs and the number of senior executives, so that might carry over here, correct?

A: I would imagine why I’m being brought in is the experience I have had. I went through very difficult times. I have a metal weight on my desk with a saying from Winston Churchill that says “When you are going through hell, keep going.” I have had that for 30 years and I will probably hold on to that tonight. This is not new but do I have a magical wand to fix the problem of health care today? No. No one does.  

Q: Are you aware of officials, who worked for a consulting firm contracted by LHSC, being hired to senior executive roles with LHSC? 

A: I am unaware of that.

Q: There has been discussion of other senior executives also off on leave for extended periods of time, as is CEO Jackie Schleifer Taylor. It has to raise a red flag as to how administration works at LHSC.

A: The cost of senior administration is a big issue in hospital health care. We have to put that in context of the size of the organization. You can spend a lot of money on one bad decision. We want to make good decisions.

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Q: Are you interested in being the permanent chief executive of LHSC?

A: I have no intention of taking the job full-time. I have had plenty of opportunities to take different jobs throughout my career, and I have said no. I have an 84-year-old mom. I was headhunted for this job the last time it was open and I didn’t apply. I have no intention to apply again.

Q: How long will your work here last?

A: I’m here as long as the board of directors at LHSC wants me here. Whatever they need me for, I’m here.

Q: Do you have supervisory authority from the Health Ministry to fire the board if needed? Was that offered to you?

A: No. I’m not here as a supervisor. It was not discussed. 

Q. LHSC has begun the process of separating services it has shared with St. Joseph’s Health Care that has been a cost savings to both hospitals. Will you look to reconnect services? 

 A: I’m setting up a meeting with (St. Joe’s CEO) Roy Butler. I don’t know the history of all that. I hope to learn a lot, but any type of closer relationship is valuable, for sure. 

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