Nfld. & Labrador

Central Health CEO resigns, less than 2 years after joining health authority

Andrée Robichaud has decided to retire from the top job at Central Health, after taking on the role in 2018.

Andrée Robichaud has decided to retire and return to Moncton

Andrée Robichaud is leaving the role of CEO of Central Health, and will retire to help care for a family member. (Jody Porter/CBC)

The chief executive officer and president of Central Health has resigned, less than two years into a five-year term.

Andrée Robichaud has decided to retire, saying she made the decision due to a health matter with a family member.

She and her family will return to their home in Moncton, she said, although she will continue to commute to central Newfoundland, working two weeks there and two weeks in New Brunswick, until a replacement is found.

"I can tell you that I'm committed to support the organization," she said.

"As we all know, working from home, people have a very different opinion today than they did maybe six months ago. So I think I can be very effective in supporting them."

Robichaud joined Central Health in November 2018, after her predecessor resigned amid managerial turmoil at the regional health authority. Robichaud acknowledged that her decision to leave would have an impact upon the organization she had been at the helm of reorganizing.

"I'm sure that this announcement would kind of destabilize, but I would say people are clear on the expectations," she said.

"In any organization when you lose the CEO, the uncertainty sets in. What will the new person be like? What kind of structure will they want?" 

A closeup of the Central Health logo on the sign of a white ambulance. The logo shows a stylized rendering of two figures holding hands, a leaf and the sun above some waves. To the left of the logo the word "paramedics" can be seen in blue on an orange line.
Central Health has been plagued with workplace culture issues, which Robichaud says have been addressed and have improved during her tenure. (Katie Breen/CBC)

Shakeup in early part of tenure

In January 2019, Robichaud made significant changes, restructuring its senior management team in the hopes of transforming the health authority, which had been plagued with internal staff complaints.

The executive team was "streamlined," according to a Jan. 24, 2019, email to Central Health employees from Robichaud, who became the CEO about four months before that. That email detailed the various new roles and acknowledged that some senior staff were let go or retired amid the changes.

Speaking to CBC on Wednesday, Robichaud said many steps have been taken to foster a more positive work environment than in the past, adding there were still some processes she planned to complete before taking her leave.

"I would suggest that we've moved quite a bit away from that. The culture takes time," she said.

"We've come a long way. And I am very proud, and I've learned a lot here."

'You'll always have complaints'

Just last week a Gander radiologist on leave slammed the administration, after years of internal complaints. The fight's beginnings predate Robichaud's CEO tenure. 

At the time, Central Health refused an interview, but on Wednesday Robichaud said it was "a dangerous avenue" to label an entire organization based on particular grievances and make accusations.

"When you have 3,500 employees, you'll always have complaints," she said.

As Robichaud reflects on her time at Central Health, she said staff overall as well as the public have been supportive, and there are a lot of recommendations still to be acted upon for the health authority's future.

"Her strength in bringing people together and leading the organization thorough the COVID-19 pandemic has been exceptional and for that we are thankful," said Don Sturge, chair of Central Health's board of directors, in the press release announcing Robichaud's departure.

"We are incredibly grateful to Andrée for the energy, vision and heart that she dedicated to our organization and to the patients and families in our care across Central Newfoundland," he said.

The release did not give a timeline for the search for Robichaud's replacement.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Carolyn Stokes

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