McNeil takes on dif­fi­cult chal­lenge


David McNeil fin­ished his du­ties at Health Sci­ences North in Sud­bury on Fri­day and, af­ter a good night’s sleep, planned to hit the road Satur­day for his new job.

McNeil, 55, is the new pres­i­dent and CEO of the Brant Com­mu­nity Health­care Sys­tem. He said he will be at his desk first thing Mon­day morn­ing.

“I was ac­tu­ally in Brant­ford back in Novem­ber,” McNeil said in a tele­phone in­ter­view this week. “It was kind of in­ter­est­ing be­cause I spent part of the week­end rak­ing leaves at my Brant­ford home and, when I got back to Sud­bury, I was shov­el­ling snow.”

A cy­clist and a swim­mer, McNeil has al­ready vis­ited the Wayne Gret­zky Sports Cen­tre pool.

He said he looks for­ward to learn­ing more about the com­mu­nity, as well as get­ting to know staff at the BCHS, which op­er­ates Brant­ford Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal and the Wil­lett ur­gent-care clinic in Paris.

McNeil is tak­ing over lead­er­ship of an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has faced sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges over the past year and still has ma­jor hur­dles to clear.

As of the last au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ment in March, the BCHS had a deficit of $7.4 mil­lion.

The BCHS, which has more than 1,400 em­ploy­ees, has been un­der the di­rec­tion of provin­cially ap­pointed su­per­vi­sor Bon­nie Adam­son and in­terim CEO Dr. Glenn Bartlett since Septem­ber 2017. Adam­son was ap­pointed by then-On­tario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s re­port found, among other things, an “un­ac­cept­able fail­ure in both gov­er­nance and lead­er­ship” at BCHS. Fol­low­ing Adam­son’s ap­point­ment, Jim Hor­nell, the pres­i­dent and CEO, was re­lieved of his du­ties and the sys­tem’s board of di­rec­tors was dis­solved.

Adam­son will re­main in her role un­til the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment de­cides to con­clude her ap­point­ment. She will con­tinue to have all the pow­ers of the board of di­rec­tors, while McNeil han­dles the dayto-day op­er­a­tions. The BCHS has ap­pointed a new board of di­rec­tors chaired by the re­tired Brant County CAO Paul Emer­son.

McNeil said he is un­fazed by the chal­lenges ahead.

“I think we have to re­mem­ber that the med­i­cal team and the staff ... con­tinue to de­liver ex­cel­lent care to pa­tients ev­ery day,” he said.

“As well, Bon­nie and Dr. Bartlett have done a great job bring­ing sta­bil­ity to the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“My job is to build on their work and to move the or­ga­ni­za­tion for­ward.”

McNeil said he will spend his first 90 days on the job lis­ten­ing to and learn­ing from staff.

Last Jan­uary, McNeil was pro­moted to se­nior vice-pres­i­dent with re­spon­si­bil­ity for pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence and dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion at Health Sci­ences North af­ter serv­ing for 17 years as vice-pres­i­dent and chief nurs­ing of­fi­cer.

He started his ca­reer as a nurse and worked through the ranks into man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tive roles.

The foun­da­tion whether you’re on the front lines or in an ad­min­is­tra­tive role, is the de­liv­ery of high qual­ity health care.” McNeil

A grad­u­ate of the nurs­ing pro­gram at Lau­ren­tian Univer­sity, McNeil earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in health ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Univer­sity of Ot­tawa and his PhD in ru­ral and north­ern health at Lau­ren­tian.

McNeil and his wife, Louise, also a nurse, have three grown chil­dren.

“It’s not as if I had any kind of child­hood dream to go into nurs­ing,” he said. “I was study­ing the nat­u­ral sci­ences, won­der­ing what I would do as a ca­reer and it was a friend who sug­gested I try nurs­ing.

“It has been a won­der­ful ca­reer that has given me a lot of op­por­tu­nity.”

McNeil is of­ten asked about be­ing a man in a pro­fes­sion that has tra­di­tion­ally been dom­i­nated by women.

“Re­mem­ber this goes back about 30 years,” McNeil said of the start of his nurs­ing ca­reer.

“At that time, only about five per cent of nurses were male.

“Now it’s up to some­thing like 10 per cent.”

Early in his nurs­ing ca­reer McNeil and his wife worked in the Indige­nous com­mu­nity of At­tawapiskat, near James Bay.

The com­mu­nity has had nu­mer­ous health and so­cial chal­lenges, in­clud­ing a well-doc­u­mented mental health cri­sis that led to a dec­la­ra­tion of a state-of-emer­gency.

He said he en­joyed pro­vid­ing care di­rectly as a nurse but also sought to grow per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally.

“The foun­da­tion whether you’re on the front lines or in an ad­min­is­tra­tive role, is the de­liv­ery of high qual­ity health care,” McNeil said.

“As a nurse, you’re re­spon­si­ble for a spe­cific pa­tient or pa­tients,” he said.

“As an ad­min­is­tra­tor, you’re re­spon­si­ble for pop­u­la­tions of pa­tients and in the more se­nior roles that re­spon­si­bil­ity ex­tends to the com­mu­nity - peo­ple served by the hos­pi­tal.”

He said his new job at the top of the BCHS will pro­vide a chance to in­flu­ence how health care is de­liv­ered.

McNeil said he doesn’t be­lieve in hi­er­ar­chies. In­stead, ev­ery­one has a role to play and their in­put is needed, he said.

“I be­lieve in trans­parency and I’m a pos­i­tive per­son,” he said.

“I’m also op­ti­mistic and be­lieve we’re on the right track at the Brant Com­mu­nity Health­care Sys­tem.”


Jan­ice Bei­tel, left, di­rec­tor of hos­pi­tal pro­grams, ed­u­ca­tion and pro­fes­sional prac­tice with the On­tario Tril­lium Gift of Life Net­work, pre­sented awards to Health Sci­ences North dur­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion at the hos­pi­tal in Sud­bury, Ont. on Fri­day May 13, 2016. Ac­cept­ing the awards were Dr. Bhanu Nalla, med­i­cal lead, or­gan and tis­sue do­na­tion at Health Sci­ences North, and David McNeil, the vice-pres­i­dent of pa­tient ser­vices and chief nurs­ing of­fi­cer at the hos­pi­tal. McNeil, 55, is the new pres­i­dent and CEO of the Brant Com­mu­nity Health­care Sys­tem.

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