Two decades of industry experience couldn’t prepare Perry for a global health pandemic
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TORONTO, August 11, 2020 -- Steve Perry didn’t just follow a career path, he found his vocation.
Perry, now three years into his role as chief executive officer of Carefor Health & Community Services, has been working in community-based healthcare for over 20 years. He stumbled somewhat accidentally into the industry as a young adult, but quickly fell in love with the ability to directly help a community he cares so deeply for.
“I think a big thing in doing what we do, is that you get to see the impact of what you do every single day,” he said.
Carefor is a non-profit home health care and community support services organization operating in the entire Eastern Ontario region, and a member of the Ontario Community Support Association. The organization offers a variety of services and programs in client homes, in the broader community, at several of its residential care facilities (including hospice) and at nursing clinics.
Perry, a loving husband and father of two, settled comfortably into his role as a leader by personalizing his work, aiming to treat everyone — from clients to employees and everyone in between — as he would want his family to be treated. However, leading a staff of 1,600 through a global health pandemic was not something anticipated so early in his tenure as CEO.
So, at a time when leadership was of utmost importance, Perry utilized his team.
“I feel a good leader listens to everyone,” said Perry. “As a leadership team we have always really supported one another.”
And that support is critical, especially when dealing with society’s most vulnerable.
Perry and his team began monitoring the pace of the pandemic long before it reached Ontario, and some tough decisions were made early on. Weekly meetings turned daily, and together they decided to suspend some programs, redeploy staff to remote working arrangements and to close all of their care facilities to non-essential visitors before it was mandated by the government.
“My perspective was, I would rather us be criticised for doing everything we could to keep people safe, even if it meant restricting movement and restricting access for people,” he said.
Simultaneously, Perry’s biggest concern — and subsequently his number one priority — became acquiring enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for the organization.
“Procuring and securing PPE was a huge, huge challenge in a highly anxious environment,” said Perry. “You were willing to do just about anything to get that PPE for your staff and your clients, but everyone on the planet was in the same boat.”
With traditional supply chains shot, Perry leveraged non-traditional supply chains in order to equip his team with the equipment necessary to keep them safe.
“Attempting to acquire PPE in the midst of a global pandemic experiencing worldwide shortages was incredibly stressful... Particularly knowing that our team was relying on us to acquire the equipment they needed and to keep them and our clients safe,” said Perry.
Now, as restrictions ease and Ontario begins to open up, Perry is determined to not let his guard down. On any given day, Carefor is procuring thousands of pieces of protective equipment, and at times supporting other organizations to have access to sufficient amounts as well.
“If you look at the profiles of those who are the most at-risk, it’s our client base,” he said. “As a team, we are choosing not to look at it in terms of fear, but as motivation. We need to be proactive and not lose sight or get too comfortable with our PPE levels as things move forward.”
For Perry, effective leadership, especially in uncertain times, is calculated.
“It’s important to act decisively, knowing you are working with imperfect information,” said Perry. “Act with a sense of urgency, but also with calmness and a team approach.”
He said that is what really helped his team keep their “A-Game” over the past few months. Perry knows he is far from the frontlines, and is thankful for the dedicated workers who surround him.
“Everything we do everyday can make a difference in somebody’s life,” he said. “That’s really what motivates me. To equip our team with the resources they need to do the really good work they do everyday.”
Moving forward — even with so much still unknown — Perry hopes to continue providing his staff and clients with the safety and peace of mind they deserve.
“I am defined in no small degree by what I do and who I do it for,” he said.
“Yes, it’s been an incredibly challenging time, but everyday is a new day and there have been an awful lot of silver linings in all of this as well.”
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Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) represents close to 230 not-for-profit organizations that provide home care and community support services that help seniors and people with disabilities live independently in their own homes and communities for as long as possible. These compassionate and cost-effective services improve quality of life and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations, emergency room visits and premature institutionalization. They are the key to a sustainable health care system for Ontario.
For more information, visit:
www.ocsa.on.ca and https://twitter.com/OCSAtweets.
For interviews and information requests please contact:
Sandra Kahale – Media Coordinator
Ontario Community Support Association
Carefor is a local not-for-profit charity that provides home health care and community support services across Eastern Ontario. Whether in the home, in the community, at care facilities or one of our clinics, our 1,500 staff are part of the circle of care that is tailored to our clients’ needs. For more information, please visit carefor.ca.
Manager – Communications, Marketing & Fundraising
Carefor Health & Community Services