Michael Gardam now acting CEO for Health PEI
May 26, 2021
CHARLOTTETOWN – Dr. Michael Gardam (pictured) has taken on the duties of Health PEI’s acting CEO as of May 8. Dr. Gardam was recommended for the position by the Health PEI Board of Directors. In addition, he will continue to provide clinical oversight services as Health PEI’s Infectious Diseases Consultant.
“Dr. Gardam brings with him a distinguished track record of health system leadership and insight, both in Canada and internationally,” said Health and Wellness Minister Ernie Hudson. “We are fortunate to have a health leader of his caliber stepping into this role to continue the important work of renewing Health PEI and the province’s health care system to better serve Islanders.”
Prior to moving to PEI in late 2020, Dr. Gardam served as the Chief of Staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto.
“It has been rewarding to work with Dr. Gardam in his role as Chief Operating Officer over the past months,” said Derek Key, chair of the Health PEI Board of Directors. “His focus on improving our health care system and continuing the important work we have begun at Health PEI through our reorganization and strategic planning will help ensure we stay on the path toward the best possible Island-wide health system.”
In a recent interview with CBC News, Dr. Gardam talked about the physician shortage that PEI has been experiencing, and said it is one of several crises that Health PEI has on its hands.
“Clearly, we have unhappy doctors, and some of the things that we’ve talked about in terms of work-life balance, in terms of the pressures put on doctors on the Island, they definitely take their toll,” Dr. Gardam said.
“I have no doubt that Health PEI in one way, shape or form has contributed to these things over the years. And my job is to try to get to the bottom of that.”
One example is the shortage of surgeons at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside. Health PEI warned that all major trauma cases requiring surgery would have to be temporarily diverted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.
The province says one of the three general surgeons on staff at the Summerside hospital is resigning in June, and another surgeon, working there on a short-term locum contract, will also leave the same month.
The ultimate solution is securing more healthcare providers, Dr. Gardam said, so that if someone is off sick, takes a holiday, or leaves the Island, the system can handle the absence.
For his part, Dr. Michael Gardam suffered a heart attack in May 2020; it began a series of life changes that would eventually lead him to P.E.I.
In an interview with PEI’s The Guardian newspaper, Gardam said the heart attack he endured, while working as chief of staff at Toronto’s Humber River Hospital, helped him realize that the position was not the right fit for him. Neither, it seemed, was Toronto.
“There’s a lot of day-to-day stressors in Toronto that don’t exist here. And so when I made that decision to leave that job, I was open,” Gardam said. “If I hadn’t have had the heart attack, I’m not sure I would be in P.E.I.”
Minister Hudson and Key both thanked outgoing CEO Denise Lewis Fleming for her service. Lewis Fleming, who is taking on the role of Deputy Minister of Finance, has spent the past 12 years in senior roles within Health PEI, including the past three years as CEO.
“Denise Lewis Fleming has made significant contributions to health care in this province through her leadership over the course of her career at Health PEI, including helping to maneuver the health system through the current COVID-19 crisis,” said Minister Hudson. “While she will be missed within the health authority, we trust her knowledge of the health care system will be an asset as she takes on her new role in Finance.”
The search for the permanent CEO position will commence within the coming weeks through a competitive hiring process.
Dr. Gardam is a pioneer of using complexity science-based approaches, including ‘Positive Deviance’ and ‘Front Line Ownership’ to improve patient safety and other complex challenges.
Dr. Gardam has advised organizations in Canada and internationally. Some of his clients have included the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hand Hygiene New Zealand, the Irish Health Services Executive, the Maryland Patient Safety Center, the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, as well as numerous hospitals across Canada.
His interest in physician leadership and organizational culture led him to become chair of the Medical Advisory Committee at UHN (2015-2017) and chief of staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto (2018-2020). He is currently program director of the York University Schulich School of Business Healthcare Leadership Development Program and an instructor for the Physician Leadership Institute of Joule (Canadian Medical Association). Education clients have included the Ontario Medical Association, the Medical Society of Prince Edward Island, Doctors of BC and a Toronto hospital consortium.