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Health minister orders external review of Central Health

Health Minister John Haggie also announced plans are moving forward to replace the aging Lakeside Homes in Gander.
Health Minister John Haggie. - Clarence Ngoh

Too many issues to ignore, says Health Minister

ST. JOHN’S, NL – There were just too many complaints to ignore, Health Minister John Haggie said about the Feb. 6 announcement ordering an external review of Central Health.

The minister spoke to reporters earlier that morning in St. John’s regarding the pending review, which he said is not about frontline services or workers.

“The noise level about governance and management of the health authority had got to a point which is outside of what you would normally expect from the role of routine senior management discussions,” Haggie said, noting that other health authorities in the province have not presented the same experience.

“You often get some disquiet about management and board decisions – it’s a single issue and its part-and-parcel of the dynamic of having this kind of system,” he said.

“What happened in Central Health had been an accumulation of lots of little things that started to look like one big thing.”

Some of the biggest concerns Haggie has heard deal with recruitment and retention, along with lack of specialists and primary care physicians. While no single incident triggered the review, Haggie said it was necessary following a variety of concerns brought forth by people and groups in several different communities.

“And when you hear the rest of the concerns being brought forward, there seems to be some challenges in the way the board (of directors) and the central senior management team and personnel get on,” he said. “…over the last 18 months it all built to a crescendo.”

For the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, this announcement is a step in the right direction.

“This has been an issue the chamber has been working on for quite some time,” Sonja Maloney, second vice-chair of the group and chair of its health and education committee said on Feb. 6. “We’re very pleased to see the minister is taking action on this.”

Maloney declined to go into detail about what concerns the chamber had previously brought forward but did say issues with the health sector have an impact on local businesses.

As health minister, Haggie is hoping the review can help return Central Health to its former position of leadership in health care delivery.

When asked whether bringing about change starts at the top, Haggie couldn’t say, but was firm in iterating this review is not about frontline staff.

“I don’t know where it starts and that’s why we brought in a guy with extensive experience,” he said.

Dr. Peter Vaughan, a recognized health administrator and former deputy minister of the Department of Health and Wellness in Nova Scotia, will carry out the review.

Dr. Vaughan will meet with the regional health authority’s CEO and board chair in the coming weeks to seek input on the review. A work plan and schedule will be developed and submitted to the department for approval.

The review will begin in the coming weeks and will be conducted over the next two months.

Haggie stated he has no intention of interfering with Vaughn’s work.
The timeframe for completion of the review is not yet known and will depend on Vaughn’s assessment.

“How long it is, broad it is or deep it is will really depend on what that work plan looks like,” Haggie said. “We have no idea of that yet because I’m not going to pre-determine or pre-judge the outcome of his work or the direction he go in.”

-with files from Sarah Ladik

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