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March 05, 2024

Local community health centre boss to speak about healthcare

The Grey Highlands Probus Club presents Alex Hector

BY JOHN BUTLER — Sometimes retirement opens up new vistas. So it is for former banker Alex Hector, currently Executive Director of the South East Grey Community Health Centre (CHC) in South Grey, headquartered in Markdale. Alex will share his perspectives on what the CHC does for its community, and on the structural challenges faced by the broader healthcare system, when he gives a free public presentation on Wednesday March 13 at 2:00 pm at the Kinplex Community Hall, 102 Highland Drive in Flesherton (near the arena and library). The doors will open at 1:30 pm.

The event, open to everyone, is sponsored by the Grey Highlands Probus Club in cooperation with the Kimberley Community Association, the Grey Highlands Public Library and the Grey Highlands Museum. It’s part of a series normally hosted at Kimberley Community Hall, but since repairs are being made to the hall, Grey Highlands agreed to host this event at the Kinplex Hall.

After a 38-year career with the Bank of Montreal, much of it in the commercial lending sector and with accountabilities from the Maritimes to British Columbia, Alex retired from banking in 2014. When he retired, he and his wife Barbara had been living near Meaford since 1998. He had decided earlier in his career to take a senior banking position that gave him the freedom to live where he wanted. And he wanted to live beyond a big city.

Relatively passive retirement didn’t suit Alex, so he joined the board of Grey Bruce Hospice in Owen Sound, then he became the Hospice’s acting Executive Director, then its permanent ED. During four years in that capacity he befriended Allan Madden, the ED of the South East Grey Community Health Centre. “We clicked because we shared the same values and perspectives around client care and support for human service workforces,” says Alex. “When Allan was about to retire, he suggested I apply for the CHC ED position, and I was offered the job in 2020.”

Both Alex and his wife developed a liking for rural and small-town life early, a preference they’ve shared for their 46 years of marriage. Alex grew up in Milton (a much smaller community in those days) and Barbara grew up in Hagersville, then in Newmarket. Their first residence near Meaford was on a scenic fifty acre parcel, but four years ago they moved to a heritage house in Meaford itself.

Alex credits the friendliness of small town and rural life in Grey County, and people’s willingness to offer help to those who need it, as reasons why he cherishes living and working here. “People who’ve lived here all their lives take this hospitality as the norm — it’s often fugitives from big city life who are surprised by it,” says Alex.

Alex sees the Community Health Centre as a bridge-building and service delivery centre of excellence in the communities it serves, including those where it has a physical presence (Chatsworth, Markdale, Flesherton and Dundalk.) Yet he brings a sense of realism about the challenges of the broader health system within which the CHC does its work. “At its uppermost levels, it’s a political system,” he says, “and it’s prone to paternalism and to stifle entrepreneurship.”

Alex is quick to point out, though, that he remains astounded at the depth of commitment of clinicians and other workers who actually make the system work at the local level. “When I was in the private sector,” he says, “I would attend meetings in which only a few of the participants were completely committed to excellent service. In the healthcare system, here and elsewhere, passionate commitment is the overwhelming norm, not the exception.”

When they are not busy enjoying small-town life in Meaford, Alex and Barbara spend much of their time at their rustic cottage at Sauble Beach (he’s a strong advocate for work-life balance.) It’s here that Alex discovered what he laughingly calls his “inner carpenter” — a skill that led him to make major renovations to their vacation retreat. When he isn’t hammering and nailing, he finds time to play the guitar, ukulele and harmonica (he plays music with a friend but hasn’t ventured into a band yet.) He also maintains his volunteer involvement, serving on the board of Grey Bruce Hospice. He was also a founding member of Catapult Grey Bruce, an organization that connects businesses with expertise and a community of entrepreneurs in Grey Bruce.

Alex and Barbara have two children. Their son pursues an exemplary career in information technology and their daughter is an executive with St. Elizabeth Health. Alex credits his daughter with teaching him much of what he knows about the mindset and service culture of those who work in healthcare. Their eldest granddaughter is completing a paramedic training program, and a grandson is studying medicine in Ireland.

Alex points out a distinct feature of his post-banking career — he no longer has career mobility aspirations, no desire to climb higher in a large organization. “I can use all my experience to help, without worrying about what anyone who can affect my career path thinks of me,” he says.

He expects to continue to work for as long as he receives and gives value through his work, and as long as he can continue to draw on his many years of experience (mentoring and coaching are among his strong points.)

For anyone interested in hearing about what a community health centre can do to affect their health and their community, or who wants to learn more about the complex system issues that comprise our current flawed healthcare system, or who wants to hear Alex’s thoughts on combining the best of public sector and private sector thinking, then Flesherton’s Kinplex is the place to be next Wednesday afternoon.

It’s free, you’ll enjoy it, and it just might be good for your health.


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