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St. Joseph’s Healthcare lost the fourth leader in five years

St. Joseph’s Healthcare is losing its fourth top leader in five years as Melissa Farrell heads to Halton Healthcare.

“The four years I have had working at St. Joe’s been rewarding and deeply meaningful to me,” Farrell said in a tweets Friday.

Farrell was named president in 2019 of the hospital network that includes the Charlton Campus, the West 5th Campus and the King Campus urgent care centre. She made Hamilton’s fifth-highest public sector salary in 2021, earning $513,264, including taxable benefits.

She replaced Dr. David Higgins who stepped down as president when longtime CEO Kevin Smith departed in 2018 to take the top job at Toronto’s University Health Network.

She originally led alongside CEO Dr. Tom Stewart but he lost his job in January 2021 after vacationing in the Dominican Republic when non-essential travel was supposed to be avoided to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Stewart was replaced on an interim basis by Winnie Doyle, a longtime executive at St. Joseph’s who announced his retirement in 2020. Elizabeth Buller was named CEO in March 2022.

St. Joseph’s plans to immediately start looking for a new president — Farrell starts his new job June. 5.

“So grateful for Melissa’s contributions within our organization and leadership roles across the city, region and province,” tweeted St. Joseph’s. “She’s an extraordinary leader who has truly lived St. Joe’s mission.”

Halton Healthcare is a network made up of Georgetown, Milton District and Oakville Trafalgar hospitals. It has not made Farrell’s salary or contract public yet but its retiring CEO and president Denise Hardenne made $490,746 in salary and taxable benefits in 2021.

“Following an extensive national search, the board was unanimous” Richard Nunn, chair of Halton Healthcare’s board of directors, said in a statement. “Melissa’s depth of knowledge in hospital operations, coupled with her expertise in the provincial health-care system, her strong values-based leadership skills and her strong focus on relationships, makes her well-suited to lead our organization.”

In a statement Friday, St. Joseph’s called Farrell a “dynamic leader” who saw the hospital network through “one of the most tumultuous times in recent health care history” as she was president throughout the COVID pandemic so far.

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