Island Health president leaving for post in Ontario, closer to his family

Island Health president and CEO Dr. Brendan Carr has announced he’s leaving the position.

Carr said he is taking a new role as president and chief executive officer of the William Osler Health System in Ontario, which will take him closer to family.

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Kathy MacNeil, Island Health’s executive vice-president for quality, safety and experience, will serve as interim president and CEO until a new leader is hired.

Carr joined Island Health in 2012 as executive vice-president and chief medical officer, moving into the role of president and CEO one year later.

His tenure has been marked by an effort to change the top-down leadership culture in the health authority, the construction of the North Island Hospital’s two campuses, as well as challenges such as long surgery wait-lists and the rocky rollout of an electronic health record system that has pit some doctors against the administration.

“He’s leaving big shoes to fill, but we do have a strong team,” said Don Hubbard, chairman of the Island Health board.

Hubbard said Carr has been successful in reforming the health authority’s top-down culture, creating senior management positions in different geographic areas. He has also built stronger relationships with partners such as the First Nations Health Authority and promoted the recruitment of more indigenous health workers.

The next leader’s first challenge will likely be dealing with the long surgery wait-lists, Hubbard said. Vancouver Island patients are facing some of the longest wait times for joint-replacement surgeries in the country, according to a report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

“We are working our way down those lists and we’re making headway, but it’s taken a lot of resources,” he said.

Carr acknowledged that the introduction of IHealth, an electronic health record system with a pilot location in Nanaimo, could have gone better.

Some doctors at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital continue to boycott the system, saying orders for medications and lab work have changed or disappeared, putting patients at greater risk than a pen-and-paper system — a perspective Island Health continues to dispute.

Carr said it has been a lesson in making sure leadership, support and quality structures are in place before any major transformation is undertaken in a health-care system.

“I’ve learned immensely from that experience, sometimes painfully so. It’s been a challenging thing, and I think it’s something that will absolutely allow this organization to do great things in the future,” he said.

Carr said he’s proud he was able to engage patients and the public in the decision-making process — from public advisory councils for recruitment decisions to the design of the North Island Hospital, set to open this fall.

Before joining the health authority, Carr served as vice-president of medicine with the Capital District Health Authority in Halifax, where he also worked as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University.

Carr received his medical degree and a master’s degree in business administration at Dalhousie. He specialized in emergency and family medicine.

William Osler Health System is an acute-care community hospital system — one of the largest in Ontario — serving Brampton and North Etobicoke.

For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Carr received $403,451 in compensation, according to Island Health documents. That includes a $314,964 salary, $34,997 in bonuses and incentives, plus benefits, pension contributions and other expenses.

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