Many people may not know this about Stephen Smith, but the man is better acquainted with flying than healing.
The father of three worked in the airline industry for 20 years before joining the board of directors at The Scarborough Hospital. He was recently appointed the board’s new chair, taking over from Michael Mueller.
“I’ve only ever been to a hospital twice in my life,” he laughed. “Tonsils and football injury, about 30 years ago. Since then I’ve only been to the hospital to visit people, twice for my wife. We had twins.”
As a person who’s never been a patient at The Scarborough Hospital, how does he make big healthcare decisions?
“For us to say that we run the hospital isn’t true,” he explained. “Even more important than [the board] are the front-line staff and the nursing staff.”
The board meets for a total of 18 hours each year. Its job is to provide the infrastructure for the hospital’s staff to do their jobs.
“I’m not allowed in with patients and I shouldn’t be,” he chuckled. “I’m a layman.”
Smith has some big shoes to fill in following Mueller, a person with plenty of experience on the board.
“Healthcare is a business,” he said. “As the board, our primary job is to hold the hospital and the management team accountable for the business plan and the clinical action plan they put forward. And then we make sure that they are doing what they said they’d do.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty has said Ontario hospitals have the country’s lowest wait times. Smith both agrees and disagrees.
“I can’t claim it’s true or not,” he replied. “But I will tell you that from my perspective, they’re too long.
“We’re still not where we want to be but we’ve made big strides in our emergency wait times. It’s about 30 per cent lower.“
The hospital just acquired its second MRI. It’s set to enter operation in October.
“It’s very exciting to have a second MRI at our hospital,” Smith said. “We’re looking to get funding for our new operating rooms as well.”
Updated equipment and maintaining the hospital’s hygienic standards are key to delivering effective healthcare, he said.
“Even though we’ve got facilities much older than many hospitals, we are very diligent in terms of cleaning,” Smith said. “Whenever we have any type of issues, it never, ever goes onto the infection stage.”
Smith said his plans for the board include continuing the work Mueller did as chair.
“I’m very proud of Mike [Mueller] because he really transformed our board,” Smith said. “He really made the board transparent and turned the hospital around and made it a much better hospital.”