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New executive director at St. Joseph's Hospital enjoying the role

Kopec brings about a quarter century of experience in health care to her new role.
Candace Kopec has enjoyed her work as the new executive director of St. Joseph's Hospital.

ESTEVAN - St. Joseph's Hospital has its new executive director.

Candace Kopec was hired for the job last month, replacing Greg Hoffort, who had been in the role from the summer of 2011 until April 30 of this year.

Kopec said she has found the hospital to be really welcoming.

"There is an incredible team here," said Kopec. "The staff is dedicated. They welcomed me in but so did the community. The support from the community is incredible here in Estevan."

She cited the success of the Radiothon for Life fundraiser for the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation, held on June 7, as an example of the community support for the hospital. That event raised nearly $97,000.

"The amount of people who came out to support our facility – so we could make improvements, so we could provide better care for the community – is definitely felt throughout our facility," said Kopec.

She brings a quarter century of health-care experience to the job. She started as a dietician in Weyburn, and in 2012 she started working out of scope in a management role. She was a primary health-care manager, focusing on chronic disease, for eight years.

When the Saskatchewan Health Authority was formed, anyone who was out of scope had to apply into a different position.

"I came to Estevan as the primary health-care manager," said Kopec.

In the past year, she worked as a primary health-care director, responsible for all of the facilities in the southeast corner of the province.

When she was the primary health-care manager, her office was at St. Joseph's. She was responsible for home care, public health, therapies, chronic disease and the vaccine clinics, which meant she took the lead on rolling out the vaccine program and the COVID-19 testing site.

She told the hospital's staff that she always felt like she was part of their team when she worked in Estevan.

"Working in Estevan, we've always worked together really, really well," said Kopec. "It's just an incredible team here. Dedicated staff. It's a wonderful facility with the programs and the services that we can provide to the community. I really wanted to be part of that."

It's important that St. Joe's provides programs and services as close as possible to people, she noted, and the hospital "has done a wonderful job in ... that."

Her knowledge of the staff and the building have helped her with the transition. She is familiar with the priorities they are working on. Kopec worked with some of the staff when she was based out of St. Joe's, as some hospital employees might have also worked in home care or public health.

"I might not know all of the answers right now, but I know who to go to, to really help me as I'm on this learning curve," she said.

St. Joseph's board chairman Don Kindopp said he was impressed with the experience Kopec had in clinical areas with the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

"She is a very mature individual with a lot of experience. She brings with her all of her contacts with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and her relationships with these people, so I think that would be beneficial to St. Joseph's Hospital," Kindopp said.

The hospital received four applications for the position. One was local and the others, including Kopec were considered to be out of town.

Kindopp is pleased with the work she has done.

"I met her on one occasion and had a very fruitful discussion and shared a lot of common goals and purposes for St. Joseph's Hospital, so I'm sure she will fit in very well. She has the nature of an individual who wants to listen and hear your point of view on what's going on and what improvements can be made within the hospital. I don't think she comes with any pre-set ideas that she's going to make any great changes, but she will listen to and observe what's going on in the hospital," said Kindopp.

Kindopp noted that he and another member of the St. Joseph's board, Kevin Daoust, were part of the selection committee. The others were part of Emmanuel Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. 

In the short term, Kopec said it will be really important to get to know the staff and physicians to provide them with support. She also wants to get to know the hospital's council and learn more about the community's needs, so St. Joe's can strengthen the health-care system and make it available for those who need it.

She expects she will also have to increase her understanding of the Catholic health-care system because it's new to her.

Kopec said a recurring theme that she has heard has been the vision of St. Joseph's Hospital as a welcoming, healing place.

"It's really important for me to make sure that when people walk through our door, they feel welcomed into here. It's our vision and it's what's important to me," said Kopec. 

Recruitment and retention of staff will be part of her role, too. In her past roles, staff recruitment has been particularly challenging.

"Recruitment is one piece of it, but retention of staff is also equally important, so staff … need to know what an incredible job they do in being part of the team so we can keep them in these roles."

Kopec will also be the executive director for the Radville Marian Health Centre, which is also operated by Emmanuel Health. She will be in the town at least once every couple of weeks.

She said the situation she finds herself in with the two hospitals is similar to her old role in which she was responsible for a number of facilities, and she'll have a schedule for how much time she spends based on need.