Hospital CEO on health future

·4 min read

New Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital and Four Counties Health Services president and CEO Julie McBrien aims to build a local health system that focuses on the individual, both with patients and staff.

McBrien spoke to the Strathroy and District Chamber of Commerce to outline her plan. Local businesses can be a part of helping those valuable medial professionals feel like a part of the community, which could go a long way in keeping people here in a time of large doctor, nurse, and other worker shortages.

“If there’s partnerships that can maybe help our staff and physicians, and I’m not sure what those look like yet, but I do think many of our physicians and our staff live and work in this community so anything that we can do around making their lives better and the community where they work. And the hospital working collaboratively with local businesses, I’d be grateful to talk about that,” said McBrien.

And she welcomed any questions on how everyone can get involved or on how the two regional hospitals are doing.

“From my perspective, the more communication the better.

“I think whether it be members of the public or businesses in the community, I want people to know what the hospital’s up to and if they have questions, they can reach out; or if they hear something they can follow up with us to check in because I think it’s good to have accurate information out and around the community. So what services do we offer, if we don’t offer it we can link to someone who maybe does.

“I think more communication and transparency is really important for all areas of the community,” said McBrien after her speech to the chamber Apr. 26.

Middlesex Hospital Alliance (MHA) board of directors appointed McBrien as president and CEO for Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital and Four Counties Health Services effective Feb. 28, but she has been serving as interim president and CEO since June 2022.

The MHA said in a press release that McBrien’s appointment was made after an extensive search and recruitment process. McBrien joined the MHA in 2021 as vice president of clinical services and chief nursing officer.

Joining while the pandemic was shutting many face-to-face services down meant McBrien saw the increased use of technology to help people reach their doctors and nurses wherever they were. She was asked about the push for more work from home options and what that could look like for the MHA, its staff and patients.

“We do have a work from home program. Many of our health care workers can’t work from home, but I know many of our doctors are doing virtual visits, especially for patients that maybe can’t come to their office. So I think that meets a good need.

“But I do think work from home is here to stay, so we want to be able to offer some staff if they’re able to work from home — whether it’s a day a week or occasionally — because I think that’s going to be key to keeping them because many in the private sectors, many of them can work from home all the time. So I think our approach is a balanced approach at the hospitals,” said McBrien.

Along with handling the new realities in staffing and patient care, getting the right equipment in like the forthcoming new MRI has been a big part of the job. That also takes working with a community, with the Province funding staff for the operation of the machine and fundraisers paying for the machine itself, and those fundraisers working with local businesses, schools, municipalities, and more to get that money in creative ways.

But despite so much going on at once, McBrien said she has not lost sight of that first focus on the individual people themselves. She used the recent passing of her father, a military vet and former health care administrator himself as a CFO in New Brunswick, as an example.

She spoke of how hospital staff are seeing many patients at the worst time in their lives. And when they and their family go back home, it is not the miracle that is modern medicine or the amazing skill of a surgeon they speak of first or most, it is how much they felt heard and informed when they or their loved ones were being cared for.

McBrien is a registered nurse and holds a Master of Health Sciences (MHSc) degree from the University of Toronto. She is also a Certified Health Executive (CHE) through the Canadian College of Health Leaders. McBrien is originally from Saint John, New Brunswick.

Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner