Thurston-featBy Tracey Richardson

Grey Bruce Health Services new president and CEO, Lance Thurston, took time out recently to answer questions from The Owen Sound Hub. Thurston, formerly Grey County's CAO, began his new position Aug. 5, following the retirement of Maureen Solecki.

Q: Why make a change from Grey County CAO to head up GBHS?

A: I have long had a keen interest in health care administration and delivery. This is an opportunity for me to work for a health care organization I know well (having served as a Board member for 4 years) and in a community that I love and wish to continue serving.

Q: What attracts you/qualifies you to move into the health field?

A: Health care is all about helping people and strengthening community. That is what I have dedicated my entire career to doing. There is great change taking place within the health care system across the province. I am keenly interested in ensuring that the Grey-Bruce region is well positioned to withstand and benefit from whatever changes may come our way.

I have been involved at the executive leadership level in the health care system throughout my municipal career – i.e. long-term care and emergency medical services. Each is tightly connected to the acute care hospital setting and so moving into the acute care sector is, for me, a natural progression.

The municipal and health care sectors are both focused on serving the public effectively and efficiently, working with upper levels of government and multiple community stakeholders in delivering service. Whether it is as a municipal CAO or a hospital CEO, the job is about leading organizations and people, developing policy and managing process.

I have experience in leading large, complex, multi-site public service organizations within rural and urban settings, and in change management and organizational development. In Kingston as the Commissioner of Community Services for 12 years, I had oversight of a group of departments that encompassed over 1,000 employees in 22 work locations that provided a range of services including long-term care, fire and rescue, cultural heritage, parks and recreation, planning, building inspection and by-law enforcement, business licensing, social services, childcare, social housing and emergency management.

At Grey County as CAO for almost five years, I provided leadership to an organization of over 800 employees that provides services such as long-term care, paramedic services, roads, planning, cultural heritage and emergency management.

Q: What do you see as GBHS's attributes? What does the corporation need to improve upon?

A: Grey Bruce Health Services is community-based, well organized, well run, financially solid, and offers a wide range of health care services needed by the residents and visitors of Grey and Bruce counties. Over the coming weeks and months I will be asking these very questions as I engage employees, physicians and volunteers across the corporation.

Q: What do you expect to be your biggest challenges in your first few months at the helm of GBHS?

A: The two biggest challenges I see are:

1) To stay abreast of the fast changing world of health care in Ontario and to ensure that Grey Bruce Health Services is well positioned to meet whatever those challenges may be (i.e. changes in provincial funding, re-alignment of services, etc,); and

2) To meet the capital infrastructure needs (major equipment, building systems, bricks and mortar) at all of our sites in a sustainable manner, so that we can continue to provide the best possible care to our patients.

Q: Have you had time to think about long-term goals for the corporation? Short term ones?

A: Grey Bruce Health Services has a well-developed strategic planning process that provides the road map forward for our operational and capital programming. The strategic plan is reviewed and refreshed every year by the Board in response to changing needs and circumstances, with input from all stakeholders.

Q: Health care is quickly evolving today, as is the role of a hospital. How is GBHS positioned for the future?

A: Staff, volunteers and physicians are engaged in a wide range of professional and sector organizations and initiatives that ensure GBHS is engaged in leading and implementing health care improvements across the region, province and country. We are active members of many collaborative sector working groups addressing a variety of service delivery issues across the region. The evolution in health care is being driven in part by advances in medical technology.

Thanks to our Hospital Campaign, GBHS will be able to purchase some of the best technology available, including a new CT scanner that reduces the amount of radiation to patients, and will allow us to do cardiology assessments with the new scanner, which is something we haven't been able to offer. The new scanner will also have a much higher image quality, and will allow us to detect smaller tumors than older technology. Advances such as these will continue to improve patient outcomes and change the care hospitals provide.

Q: Has there been any new progress on a new hospital/health centre for Markdale? Will this be a priority? Any other priorities?

A: The proposal to build a new facility in Markdale, submitted by the GBHS Board of Directors to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, remains under active consideration by the government. It is a priority for the board and we will be redoubling our advocacy efforts with the Ministry and the South West Local Health Integration Network. We are most appreciative of the support for the project that continues to be shown by the local communities, local municipal councils, Grey County and our MPP, Bill Walker.