New Brunswick

Former vocal Horizon CEO John McGarry returns as board chair

John McGarry, the former president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network, has been appointed board chair for the regional health authority, effective immediately.

Health-care system will benefit from his 'leadership, insight and expertise,' minister says

John McGarry retired as president and CEO of the Horizon Health Network in January 2017. (CBC)

John McGarry has been tapped once again to serve with the Horizon Health Network.

McGarry, the former president and CEO of the regional health authority, has been appointed chair of the board of directors, effective immediately, Health Minister Ted Flemming announced on Friday.

McGarry, who retired in January 2017 at the age of 64, "brings a wealth of knowledge" to the position, with more than 35 years of experience in health care administration, Flemming said in a statement.

"The province's health-care system will greatly benefit from his leadership, insight and expertise," he said.

McGarry said in the government release that New Brunswick faces many pressures on its social systems, including demographic, fiscal and human resource-related challenges.

"I look forward to working with CEO Karen McGrath and the board of directors in helping keep our health-care system accessible to everyone who needs care, and sustainable in the long-term," he said.

McGarry first joined Horizon in February 2013. In April 2016, he announced he would not to be renewing his four-year contract.

He told reporters at the time that his decision to step down had nothing to do with any disagreement with the provincial government over policy.

But he did say he was disappointed with continuing turf issues among the regions Horizon covers, and with the francophone health network, Vitalité.

He also said his successor would have to continue making difficult decisions, managing public expectations with limited provincial resources.

'Crisis' of hospital congestion

Earlier that year, McGarry had written a commentary, saying it was time to move away from the concept that all care must occur in hospitals and embrace a model with fewer emergency rooms and improved care in communities.

In 2015, McGarry had raised eyebrows when he tweeted about what he called a "crisis" of congestion in New Brunswick hospitals.

"Horizon Health network called for urgent action in January, Nurses Association of New Brunswick is now, all regional hospitals are facing intolerable congestion," he posted on Twitter.

"When will system sit down as one and fix the worsening situation of alternative levels of care and long term care for patients who need their hospital care? Please someone tell us what it will take?"

Frustrated by inaction

The tweets came on the heels of numerous surgeries being delayed because hospital beds were blocked by patients who should have been in other facilities.

McGarry told reporters he was frustrated by years of inaction by successive governments and felt he had no choice but to go public.

Then-health minister Victor Boudreau said he wished McGarry had called him to discuss the matter first and offer solutions rather than just complain. But he agreed there was a problem and said the government was working on it.

Horizon operates 12 hospitals and more than 100 medical facilities, clinics and offices.

McGarry previously served as co-CEO for the Office of Health Renewal and acting assistant deputy minister for the Department of Heath.

He has also served as vice-president of finance at Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital, senior vice-president of the Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and CEO of River Valley Health.

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