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Labrador-Grenfell Health’s New CEO emphasizes collaboration and partnerships

Heather Brown started as the new CEO for Labrador-Grenfell Health on June 18.
Heather Brown started as the new CEO for Labrador-Grenfell Health on June 18. - Contributed

Heather Brown discusses challenges, opportunities for improvement and leadership style

LABRADOR/GREAT NORTHERN PENINSULA, N.L. — After nearly a year of waiting, Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH) now has a new full-time chief executive officer (CEO).

Beginning June 18, Heather Brown assumed her post as the new CEO of LGH.

The health authority covers a large area, including all of Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula.

Brown’s term is for five years.

Her appointment was recommended through the merit-based Independent Appointments Commission.

Brown was most recently the vice-president of rural health, long-term care and community health with Central Health.

She has 27 years of experience in health care and holds a bachelor of nursing and a master of education in post-secondary studies from Memorial University.

Brown spoke with The Northern Pen for the first time as she settled into her new job on Wednesday, June 27.

“I do have a wide background both at practice as well as at the management and leadership levels and I really feel I can use those skills and experiences here at Labrador-Grenfell Health,” she said. “I’m very excited to be here and working with the team.”

She discussed challenges, opportunities, and her leadership style, amongst other matters.

Geographic size

Brown believes the challenges facing the LGH region are similar to other areas of the province.

But some are distinct.

She says the delivery of services in a large geographical region poses a unique challenge.

She believes they need to look at increasing innovative health technology to reduce travel and the burden on patients to receive care.

Partnerships with indigenous groups

Brown feels it’s important to be mindful of the region’s cultural diversity.

She is working on building partnerships with the various Indigenous groups of the region, something she started during her time with Central Health.

“My challenge is certainly to connect and build on the partnerships I’ve already started, particularly with the Innu Nation, Nunatsiavut government and Inuit First Nations,” she said.

Recruitment and retention

According to Brown, recruitment and retention is an issue for all regional health authorities across the province, but particularly for remote and rural locations.

Brown says in the LGH region it has been a challenge with nursing staff at the Labrador Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

But they’re working on establishing initiatives to ameliorate these issues.

“Our regional nurse retention program was established to provide nurses with experience and education and qualifications that they would require to work as a registered nurse in this particular environment,” she said.

Brown believes there is great value in working in rural and remote communities and they offer unique experiences, often allowing employees to feel they are part of the community.

“I believe community spirit and that sense of what’s unique about each community – whether it be on the Northern Peninsula or Labrador – is something that people come to experience, and we need to capitalize on that,” she said.

Mental health and addiction services

Brown says LGH recognizes the need for improved mental health and addiction services in the region.

According to her, the health authority is working collaboratively with the Department of Health and Community Services towards a recovery action plan.

Last year, the All-Party Committee on Mental Health and Addictions also came out with 54 recommendations for strengthening existing programs and addressing gaps in the system throughout the province.

Various teams, she says, are working to ensure all 54 recommendations are met.

For instance, mobile crisis intervention teams have been introduced in St. John’s and Labrador West.

This is a new policing model to respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis.

The teams can be reached by calling 911, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary or the 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line at 1-888-737-4668. The line is free and confidential.

Brown says the doorways program is a walk-in, single session counselling program available at hospitals in Labrador City, Goose Bay and St. Anthony for people who require that service.

Mental health and addictions workshops are open to the public, with sessions taking place from May to August.

Another interesting initiative, Brown says, is the Wellness Café that has been started at Mealy Mountain Collegiate in Goose Bay.

It allows students to talk about mental health and addictions concerns with a registered nurse.

“I really believe this is a great new initiative,” she said.

The health authority intends to look at introducing it at other schools in the region.

Brown says there are other forthcoming “pieces” to meet the needs of the general population and the specific cultural needs within various indigenous groups.

Travel throughout the region

Into her second week at Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Brown was looking forward to doing some travel throughout LGH’s region to meet with more of the LGH team and the public.

Later that week, she planned to visit St. Anthony and Flower’s Cove on the Great Northern Peninsula. And she hoped to do more travelling over the rest of the summer to meet staff, physicians and the communities.

“To talk about how we can work together to achieve our goals and objectives for better health,” she said.

Community engagement and collaboration

Brown stresses a strong belief in collaborative leadership.

“I have a background in population and public health primarily and my education and research interests are in community engagement,” she said.

She doesn’t believe any particular person possesses all the skills necessary in such a position, and intends to facilitate collaboration with staff, physicians, communities and partners.

“We need to look outside of the system, into the community as well, to find solutions for issues,” she said.

‘Please tell us’

Brown says it’s very important to LGH that they receive feedback from clients.

To this end, the health authority has launched a ‘Please Tell Us’ online survey.

There is also a compliments and complaints process through LGH’s website at lghealth.ca or by phone or by email.

“We want to hear from groups, from individuals, we’re committed to do the best we possibly can to meet community and individual needs as we provide care,” said Brown. “And I can’t stress enough how important that is.”

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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