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Peterborough Regional Health Centre board taking time to find the ‘right candidate’ as hospital CEO

Posted: October 27, 2015

(October 27, 2015)

By Ernst Kuglin, The Peterborough Examiner

Peterborough Regional Health Centre board chairwoman Mary Ferguson-Paré is seen at the hospital on Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 in Peterborough, Ont. The hospital board is taking the time it needs to find the “perfect candidate” for its empty chief executive officer position. ‘We’re not going to take second best,’ she said. JASON BAIN/Peterborough Examiner/Postmedia Network

If Peterborough Regional Health Centre’s board of directors doesn’t find soon the “perfect candidate” for its still-vacant chief executive officer position, it will keep looking until he or she is found, says board chairwoman Dr. Mary Ferguson-Paré.

The board is in month five of a consultation process that has included working with a private company and gathering community input, the chairwoman of the hospital’s CEO search committee said Monday, providing an update on the search.

A final public meeting held Monday followed another held Aug. 18, each giving citizens a chance to have their say on what they’d like to see in the hospital’s next leader.

The next step, Ferguson-Paré said, will be using that community feedback to create a profile of the role, which will then be presented to the board in November. The consultant will then provide a list of candidates, based on that information.

The size of that list will depend on how many show interest in the job, she said. Based on the number of enquiries received to date, it will be long.

“I think we will have lots of candidates because this is a great hospital and a great place to live,” said Ferguson-Paré, who was appointed board chairwoman for a one-year term at June’s annual general meeting after joining the board in June 2011.

The hospital has faced criticism, including from the Peterborough Health Coalition, for not working more closely with the community and the public forums held this year show the board has been listening, Ferguson-Paré said.

“We’re taking action on what we’re hearing,” she said. “We won’t be perfect, but we’re trying very hard to get there.”

The effort is already paying dividends. “We’re seeing evidence that is bearing fruit … So, I think we’re doing something right here, which I am very proud of.”

It’s been a year since the hospital had a full-time CEO, but Ferguson-Paré said the board doesn’t mind taking “whatever time it takes to find the perfect candidate,” thanks largely to the work of the hospital’s interim CEO, chief-of-staff Dr. Peter McLaughlin.

“We’re not going to take second best,” she said. “Our community deserves an excellent leader and we are committed to finding an excellent leader.”

There is no timetable for when a new CEO will be hired, but Ferguson-Paré speculated if interviews begin in the new year, someone could be hired within the first six months of 2016. The time the top candidate could need to transition will be a big factor, she noted.

However, if an ideal candidate isn’t found, the board will not hesitate to start over with a new group of candidates – which could further delay the process, Ferguson-Paré said.

Ultimately, the board seeks someone who will be open and transparent and continue to develop positive relationships with groups in the community, Ferguson-Paré said. “We want to build a new culture here and we want to be known for that.”

The doctor praised the work of the hospital’s leadership team in the interim. “I don’t think you can find great leadership without everyone contributing.”

The hospital is making great strides and Ferguson-Paré pointed out how, for example, it improved across the board in an assessment of best practices by national patient satisfaction research firm Picker Institute in late 2014.

“We’ve become an exemplar in North America,” she said. “We have satisfied patients and we want to keep it that way.”

Ferguson-Paré pointed out efforts to make the hospital more of a learning institution. The board is working with the hospital foundation to create a learning centre.

The recently-retired vice-president of professional affairs and chief nurse executive with University Health Network, which operates four teaching hospitals in Toronto, is an adjunct faculty member at York and Trent University Schools of Nursing.

A member of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Ferguson-Paré, has more than 43 years of experience in health care – most of it in executive positions at teaching hospitals across Canada.

“To remain relevant in the emerging world, you have to be learning,”said Ferguson-Paré, who focused her own professional and academic activities on organization and management development within health care.

The mother of five lives in the Lakefield area with her husband and their large dog, Winston. They have 14 grandchildren.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me to give back,” she said. “For me, giving back to this community is very important.”

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