The retiring president and chief executive officer for Interior Health says he will miss the humanity that drives our regional health care system.
Chris Mazurkewich says that humanity is translated from the people who work in the health care system to deliver services, to the personal responses he receives from others thanking him for the care they or their loved ones received.
“It’s a good feeling knowing there are some positive things happening in health care today. People come up to me and relate those stories first-hand about their own health care experiences, but it’s not about me. It’s about all those people working in our health care system making a positive impact on the communities they serve.
“I like that about Interior Health, that we are doing something positive for communities. It’s not always about the bottom line, but about people caring for people.”
Mazurkewich attended his final Interior Health board meeting on Tuesday in Kelowna. The next board meeting Dec. 3 will bring the arrival of his already hired successor Susan Brown, who officially takes over her new job Oct. 29.
Mazurkewich has spent more than 20 years with Interior Health, appointed president and CEO of Interior Health in October 2015. Prior to that he was executive vice-president and chief operating officer at Alberta Health Services for four years, overseeing the clinical operations of the Alberta health service delivery system, including over 100 hospital, residential, community care and support service programs.
Prior to that, from 2002 to 2009, Mazurkewich was IH’s chief operating officer in charge of strategic and corporate services.
IH board chair Doug Cochrane wished Mazurkewich well in his pending retirement, saying “his legacy will not be forgotten.”
Mazurkewich was given a reminder about that legacy regarding his efforts to upgrade the level of health care within Indigenous communities across the health region when he was invited to a First Nations gathering at The Delta Grand Conference Centre last spring.
“There were more than 150 in attendance and they sang a song for me, which was a very humbling appreciation of what Interior Health has done for First Nations health services in recent years,” he said. “That was something that for me personally was very powerful.”
Mazurkewich says looking forward, technology continues to drive change in health care, fostered by aging baby boomer demographic that is living longer.
“At the same time, it’s important not to lose the humanity in health care, the personal touch, the smile when a health care provider asks how a patient is doing, why they look worried.
“Those kind of things are a goldmine for someone in a hospital in a distraught situation who just needs someone to talk to, to listen to them. That’s all part of creating a community of care.”
That legacy also endured a rough patch last year when an internal survey of 500 management staff across the health region offering widespread negative views of Mazurkewich’s leadership.
At the time, Mazurkewich said the survey response left him humbled, but he also reiterated the importance the chief executive officer and health board play in creating a positive work culture within the health authority.
When he leaves the Interior Health headquarters on Ellis Street for the last time, Mazurkewich says he plans to just chill and slow down, removed from the pressure cooker of health care management.
“I want to take it easy for six months and regroup,” he said.
He and his wife plan to travel in their retirement and dote on their first grandchild, who was born in August here in Kelowna.