New IHA CEO tours through Cranbrook

With only 6 weeks on the new job, Chris Mazurkewich stops by EKRH as part of a listening tour.

With only six weeks on the job, the new CEO of Interior Health stopped by the East Kootenay Regional Hospital as part of a listening tour throughout the jurisdiction.

Chris Mazurkewich, who has taken over the top job from outgoing CEO Dr. Richard Halpenny, says he is using the tour to get a clearer picture of the challenges in communities across the IHA boundary.

In Cranbrook on Wednesday, Mazurkewich met with board members of the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District.

“One of the things I’ve seen is community leaders working with Interior Health in a different way than in the past, there’s much more collaboration,” Mazurkewich said. “What should the local services be? How do we work together? Where should we be moving to?

“So that’s a really positive change.”

Mazurkewich is returning to the Interior Health where started as the Chief Operating Officer, Strategic and Corporate Services from 2002-2009. For the last four years, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Alberta Health Authority.

The move back to B.C. has been encouraging, especially in seeing how the province is approaching health care, Mazurkewich said.

“What I like is the direction that B.C. is heading,” he said. “They’ve regionalized, we’ve gone through that phase, now we’re moving into community care, so primary care, working closely with the physicians and we’re looking from shifting care from the hospitals to community services.

“So can we do a better job on prevention and promotion, taking care of people at home, those kinds of services.”

The $20-million ICU expansion is on pace for its scheduled mid-2016 completion as is the electrical upgrades. However, while there isn’t a priority list, there are still a number of areas that the EKRH would like to address moving forward, such as the redevelopment of the old ICU area into a paediatric space and beefing up oncology and psychiatry services.

Mazurkewich also heaped praise on the work of the East Kootenay Foundation for Health and its fundraising ability, specifically the latest goal of reaching $1 million for equipment for the new ICU space.

“I think the generosity of this community is unbelievable. We rely on foundations to help us with our major capital projects and this foundation in Cranbrook and for the rest of the communities has been amazing,” he said.

“You just look at the changes in the hospital, they’ve helped us every step of the way, so very grateful to them and very grateful to the generous donors.”

Mazurkewich also took the time to address the issue of hospital laundry services, which is currently under review and could potentially be relocated to the Lower Mainland and out of Nelson, where it’s currently done. The rest of the province’s health authorities, aside from the Interior and the North, have already outsourced their laundry services, he added.

He recently announced in a statement that he is reviewing the IHA proposal to have laundry outsourced in order to get a full picture of the situation.

“When we looked at outsourcing laundry during that period of time, actually the laundry staff and the union worked with management and their productivity increased substantially through good ideas from the staff,” Mazurkewich said. “At that point, we said ‘You don’t have to outsource, you’re competitive with outsource organizations that supply laundry.

“At that point, we also said that there will be a day where we have to look at infrastructure, so buy new equipment, expand the laundry plants and those kinds of things. So where would we get the money to fund that? So IH started this process some time ago to look at that and we’re at that question point.”

A decision on whether or not to outsource the service won’t be made until next year.