As I mentioned in my April blog, CCAC-LHIN Transition Day is coming up on May 10. As we continue our preparations to ensure a seamless transfer of the assets, responsibilities and staff of the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) to the LHIN, we received very exciting news at the end of March – the appointment of Janine van den Heuvel as our new Board Chair. Janine takes over from Laurie Ryan-Hill, who had served as Acting Chair since October 2016.
As many of you know, Janine joined the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN board in June of 2016, having previously served as the Chair of the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant CCAC. Janine’s health care sector experiences and expertise, as well as her in-depth knowledge of the home and community care sector will be invaluable to the LHIN as we go through the process of transition and transformation and we are very fortunate to have her leading our board. Switching up formats a little bit, I wanted to help you get to know Janine a little better by sharing a quick interview we did with her.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved in health sector governance?
I started off in a health science faculty program at Western University, where I did my undergrad and post-grad degrees. I remember one class, we had a guest lecturer come in to do a talk to the students and among the things he discussed was that medicine is politics. That concept really challenged my thinking and changed my world. Previous to that I was thinking about a career on the clinical side, but following that talk I began immersing myself in the politics and the policy of health care systems. Shortly after that, I went to work for the former Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, George Smitherman. In that role I got a close up view of the Order in Council and the public appointment process and was able to see the line of sight between public accountability on the front lines to the government and on up to the Minister. I saw that process again, in greater detail, when I worked at the Toronto Central and Mississauga Halton LHINs in their communications departments. Working at the LHIN level, I began to better appreciate how governance links into the whole management and delivery of health services, from integrating the system to improving care for patients and providing accountability for resources, and saw the potential for getting involved at that level. Following my time at the LHIN, I took an appointment with the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant CCAC as a board member and was later appointed as Board Chair. Midway through my term as CCAC Chair, as the new Patient’s First legislation was moving through the legislature, I was appointed to the board of the LHIN and was subsequently appointed as Chair of the LHIN board just last month.
In what ways has your past experience with the CCAC board been an asset as you transitioned to the LHIN board?
Beyond just the basic working knowledge of how to work with and lead a high-functioning board of directors, my experience at the CCAC and the exposure to patients and families has given me a lot of empathy and an awareness of how a board member can influence the culture right down to the patient and family level. It also gave me an appreciation for the skill and talent and dedication of the staff at the LHIN, who we worked closely with. That knowledge and experience gave me the background I need to perform at a high-level.
Without seeming biased, my perspective and knowledge of the business and functioning of the CCAC has been, and will continue to be, valuable. I think it has been useful for the CCAC as well. From the view point of the CCAC employees, seeing some of their board members cross the bridge and move over to the LHIN, I think indicated to them right away that this was going to be a partnership, not a cleaving off of the CCAC. Seeing the senior teams at both the CCAC and the LHIN work through this major change process and witnessing how kind and caring they have been to each other and how thoughtful and considerate all their actions and deeds have been, is inspiring.
What has been your biggest learning since joining the LHIN board?
I had awareness of this before, but I am absolutely floored, astounded and humbled by the amount of work that the LHIN does and how outstanding the staff here are. It is truly awe-inspiring, in terms of the current landscape, how committed the organization is to making this transition seamless for patients and keeping that top of mind while still managing all the day-to-day operations and core functions that continue on and keep the system running. Also, the drive and dedication for transparency is something that I have learned is very much rooted in the culture here in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN.
What excites you most about taking on the role of LHIN Board Chair?
The health care sector has been talking for a long time about innovation, doing more and thinking differently. I believe this is the best opportunity since I’ve been involved in the health care world to believe in the art of the possible. The Patients First Act is the operationalization of ideas that really haven’t been made concrete before, like a focus on patient experience and on a health care sector that is sustainable and accountable. This is a new time where fresh ideas are welcome and we’re being encouraged to challenge the status quo. I’m proud to be part of that.
As I was interviewing for this role, I said to the Deputy Minister that the chance to be involved at the governance level in the health system right now would be like finding a unicorn in my sock drawer. It is an unbelievably rare opportunity to be involved during a defining time for the organization and for the health system. We all need to be aware of that so we can capitalize as much as possible and use it to benefit patients and shape the system going forward.
What are some of the things you hope to accomplish during your term?
First and foremost, I want to ensure that we continue the core work that the LHIN has been doing and support that culture. That’s really the job of the board and will be key to a successful CCAC to LHIN transition – That’s not a nice to have, it’s essential. A smooth transition will improve care and the sustainability of the system.
Personally, I would like to push for a little bit of innovation and modernization of the board itself. Again, I think it’s a really good time to look at what is happening around us and some emerging solutions in IT. Here in the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant region especially, there are a lot of interesting things happening and some interesting problem solving models developing. I would like to look and see if some of those things can be adopted as board practices to help us do our work.
It may sound like a small step, but just going paperless and integrating web-based solutions that would streamline administrative tasks and allow board members improved access to information, including the ability to easily review material remotely, would be helpful.
What are your thoughts on the direction and future of health care in Ontario?
I think that opening up the LHIN legislation has been one of most significant changes in the health care world in some time and certainly since the conception of the LHINs. I think it is exciting that there is a political appetite for that level of change. We’ve been talking for a long time about doing more with less, about the gray wave and changing demographics in the province. This is a major step in the right direction to getting decision making closer to the patient, providing better care and eliminating duplication in the system.
The Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN Board will next meet Wednesday, May 31 at 2 p.m. at the Grimsby office. You can learn more about our Board including its other members and previous meetings on our website – www.hnhblhin.on.ca