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Ron Gagnon - Grand River Hospital

Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your organization?

Ron Gagnon is the president and CEO of Grand River Hospital (GRH) and an active leader in the KW4 community. Prior to joining Grand River Hospital in November 2018, Ron was the CEO of another Ontario hospital for 12 years. Ron’s passion and entry into the healthcare industry was inspired by his mother's courageous seven-year battle with breast cancer. Witnessing the profound impact that healthcare professionals had on his mother, their family, and Ron himself, he was drawn to the field. He reflected on an interaction with a palliative care nurse who helped him transition from total denial to being more ready. That interaction made Gagnon realize, “If I can have that kind of impact on people, I want to be in healthcare”. A year following his mother’s passing, Ron joined the staff at the hospital in Sault Ste Marie as Vice President of Finance and has worked in the healthcare industry since.

Grand River Hospital (GRH) is one of two hospitals within the KW4 region. There are 6,000 people that contribute to the hospital including physicians, dentists, midwives, nurse practitioners with credentials and volunteers, staff, and learners. Since COVID began the hospital’s team has grown by 30%. Many people in the region might not know, but GRH is a large teaching organization, with 1,600 learners every year. The hospital runs 15 key clinical programs that serve the community and in some cases, the broader Waterloo Wellington region; Cancer care, Childbirth, Children's, Complex continuing care, Critical care, Emergency, Laboratory, Medical imaging, Medicine, Mental health and addictions, Pharmacy, Rehabilitation, Renal, Stroke, and Surgery. The hospital has 680 beds and will see more than 75,000 emergency visits annually. But the scope of the hospital’s work is much larger than just the inpatient services they provide. Grand River Hospital is the largest community service provider, with eleven sites across the community servicing 250,000 outpatient visits a year.

They have a strong partnership with St. Mary’s Hospital, and have realigned the delivery of services between the two organizations over time. The two hospitals share a medical staff and use a shared hospital information system. They have begun a new endeavor together to build a new hospital in our region. Building the Future of Care Together will “modernize hospital facilities, so our community has access to the highest quality care, technology and infrastructure to be healthy, now and in the future.”

What drew you to Grand River Hospital ? How has the organization changed since?

Ron reflected on his time in Sault Ste Marie, helping to build a new hospital in the town he grew up in, and the experience it gave him. When the opportunity arose to work at Grand River, he saw it as an opportunity to take skills built over his career and apply them on a bigger scale. Ron credits the community as one of the main draws to working at GRH. He appreciated the community focus on innovation and technology sector that was continuously pushing the envelope. Those characteristics would provide tools for creating something new and better for healthcare, not just locally, but more broadly. Moreover, Ron recognized Grand River Hospital's excellence in terms of quality and patient-centric care. Since his time at GRH the organization has grown in size, by 30% in both number of people, beds and services. Ron also mentioned how the presence of GRH as a community partner and role in the delivery of community services has changed. The organization has taken on a leadership role in innovation in healthcare. Ron noted that one aspect that has remained unchanged is the exceptional quality of the people at Grand River Hospital. At GRH, there is a culture of mutual support and a commitment to finding effective solutions.

What do you like most about Grand River Hospital?

Ron connected to his previous response in that the people at the organization make it such a rewarding and great experience. The persevering spirit of the people to take a different approach and find a way is something that Ron likes most about the hospital. He also emphasized the sense of unity within the organization, where everyone looks out for one another. The GRH team is always looking for the opportunity to work with others, to grow and striving to improve. Ron is extremely proud to be a part of the team.

Can you tell us what your role(s) is/are with the OHT?

Ron has many roles with the OHT as Grand River Hospital is largely involved with the organization. GRH is the fund holding organization of the OHT and is the largest financial contributor. They also provide back office support because they see the OHT as very important to the delivery of healthcare. The OHT has also seconded staff from Grand River to work full time (see Brenda Vollmer ). Ron recently became co-Chair of the OHT Steering Committee with Cathy Harrington from Community Care Concepts. Ron looks forward to the work the steering committee will achieve being co-chaired by Cathy and himself.

How does your organization align with the values and goals of the OHT?

Grand River Hospital’s strategic plan is very aligned with the OHT and community at large. The organization’s vision isn’t just focused on the hospital but on the health systems and the health of those in the community. “A world class health system supporting healthier lives.” is the vision statement. The emphasis is on a larger system not just on the hospital because the hospital has a significant role in the delivery of healthcare and supporting healthier lives is at the heart of all their work. Within their strategic plan there is a specific goal to play a leadership role in working with partners, such as the OHT. Within their 5 -year measures of success is to see the KW4 OHT is fully operational with integrated funding enveloped and integrated outcome accountabilities. The continued engagement of Grand River Hospital with KW4 OHT further demonstrates their dedication to the values and goals of the OHT and the development of healthcare delivery through an OHT lens.

What do you hope to see in the near future with your continued partnership with the OHT?

Ron hopes that the OHT and partners will be able to take the next logical steps towards maturity. The government has alluded to changes coming around governance which will assist with larger steps towards the shared vision. Ron also sees advancements in governance to assist with accountability for service delivery, quality outcomes in services and for the financial component. Ron is hopeful in the next couple years there will be more integrated services community wide. He also looks forward to seeing the OHT involved in the development of Building the Future of Care Together plan with GRH and St. Mary’s Hospital. The new hospital will be a key aspect to service delivery so input from the OHT in the process will benefit both organizations in the long term. He also anticipates witnessing tangible results from the work accomplished thus far.

What are 1-2 differences and similarities you have noticed here in the region since the OHT began? Which are you most interested in or excited for?

Ron commented on the biggest difference that he has witnessed is more of a willingness to work as a system. He referenced how the primary care partners seem to be working closer and closer together. Through a couple of call outs for funding from the ministry it was noticeable how the primary care community came together. Ron mentioned that the central piece to the success of a healthcare system is a strong, well supported primary care system. He is excited to see more partners around the table when opportunities or challenges arise. The response to COVID-19 was a strong example of how people shared their different experiences and eliminated “silos of care” for the benefit of the people of the communities we serve.

On a final note, Ron mentioned that there are people wondering if the model of OHTs will go away because the government might change, for example. Ron encourages people to think about it from a community standpoint and what benefits a more coordinated and integrated system would have on the KW4 region. Using the principles of population health that drive our work can only lead to better healthcare, better health and a better healthcare system in our community.


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