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New CEO has list of priorities
World traveller takes the helm at Beaufort Delta health authority

Shawn Giilck
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 16, 2013

Owen Partridge, the new chief executive officer of the Beaufort Delta Health and Social Services Authority, is going to be one popular guy come Christmas.

NNSL photo/graphic

Owen Partridge has been appointed the new chief executive officer of the Beaufort Delta Health and Social Services Authority. - Shawn Giilck/NNSL photo

Sporting an uncanny resemblance to Old Saint Nick, and with Partridge as a last name, makes for a festive disposition. Partridge said he's regularly played Santa Claus, particularly when he was some 60 pounds heavier than he is now.

He gleefully recounts memories of the affect he's had on children during the holiday season. They always eyeball him surreptitiously with a wary manner, he said with a hearty chuckle.

Partridge arrived in Inuvik, starting work May 1, as a world traveller, something he attributed at least in part to his childhood as a "military brat."

He said his family moved every two or three years, and that seems to have planted a wanderlust in him. Partridge said he comes into a job with the perspective there are goals he want to accomplish. When those are done, it's time to move on to another challenge.

This mindset has taken him to places and positions as diverse as the Cayman Islands, Egypt and Dubai. He worked in Nunavut at one point, so he is familiar with the Arctic.

He began his career in the media, working primarily in radio. That career dead-ended for him when he realized it was severely curtailing the time he could spend with his growing family. With the hours he was working, he said, his children were asleep when he got home and away for the day while he was off work. He made the choice to put his family first and hasn't regretted it.

He began to work as a contract manager in health care because he was fascinated by the industry.

"Most people have a misperception about who works in hospitals," he said. "That's because when the average person comes to a hospital there's something wrong and they want to be fixed."

The public focuses on the frontline and high-profile nurses and doctors, Partridge said, and don't see or acknowledge the army of people working in concert with them and supporting their efforts.

He was taking a sabbatical in Victoria when he came across the open position for a CEO in Inuvik. Having worked in Nunavut during the period the territory was created, he was immediately interested in returning to the North in a new locale and challenge.

Although he's only been here a very short time, Partridge has already circled some of his priorities for his new post.

He said the reaccreditation process for the hospital is high on his list, and don't expect him to settle for that as being good enough. Accreditation, he said, is the minimum standard health professionals have to meet. He expects his people and facilities to be far better than that.

"The corporate culture is here to do that," he said. "I see a lot of enthusiasm here, which I like."

Partridge said he will also focus heavily on stabilizing the staff and improving both recruitment and retention. He sees the chance to "do everything" here as a selling point for people looking for a wide range of experience instead of specialization.

Still, he acknowledged it requires a rare breed to come to the North and stay. That's the type of worker he's looking for.

Partridge said he's initially planning on staying at the helm for three to five years, but he's already heard that other people have come to town saying the same thing and wound up staying.

"That will give me some time to figure things out," he said.

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