The controversial head of the Vancouver Island Health Authority credited for building infrastructure but criticized for a top-down leadership style that some communities resented is stepping down next year.
Howard Waldner, 59, will retire in April after eight years as VIHAs president.
Waldner arrived here in 2004 from Calgary where he was also a health care executive. During his reign on the Island, he delivered Royal Jubilees new $349-million patient care centre in 2011, and a $600-million deal to build two North Island hospitals by 2017.
I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with such a professional and dynamic organization, Waldner said in an email. He declined to speak to the Times Colonist.
The leadership shown by the VIHA board of directors during my term as CEO as been inspiring, Waldner said. We have achieved a great deal together. The staff at VIHA are amongst the best I have ever worked with and I will miss them all.
Don Hubbard, VIHAs chairman, said Waldner provided strong and effective leadership. Howards career spans over 40 years of continuous service starting in Scotlands National Health Service, then in Calgary, Alta., and most recently with VIHA in British Columbia.
Since he was appointed he 2010, Hubbard has twice had to review allegations of impropriety against Waldner: From the Opposition NDP that Waldner abused the power of his office by lobbying to get his son into the University of British Columbia; and when Waldner last year awarded a contract without competition to the husband of a close friend of Premier Christy Clark.
Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog said Waldner leaves behind a mixed record, noting complaints about the bureaucratization of the health authority with too much management and not enough delivery of services.
On a human level its a demanding job and he was a very hard worker. At the same time there will be people very pleased by his leaving and others who will not, Krog said.
During negotiations for the North Island hospitals, Campbell River Mayor Walter Jakeway told the Times Colonist that VIHA wasnt open or clear about its intentions: Hes the head of VIHA so if VIHA hasnt communicated well hes the bossman; hes responsible.
B.C. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid, in an interview, thanked Waldner for the work hes done.
I think its very difficult to be in a leadership position like this without having some controversy; in fact I think its impossible, MacDiarmid said. We need people to step up and do this kind of work.
In 2010-2011, Waldner was paid $373, 001, with an additional $29,683 in travel and expenses for a total of $402,684, according to VIHAs financial statements.
VIHA also announced Waldners departure in April 2009. He changed his mind the next month.
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