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Harrison named chair of provincial long-term-care association

Updated: May 31

By Lee Griffi

The new chair of the board of directors at AdvantAge Ontario is a familiar face to those in Wilmot Township.

Dr. Steven Harrison is the chief executive officer of Tri-County Mennonite Homes, an organization with long-term care and other facilities in New Hamburg and Stratford. AdvantAge Ontario primarily represents non-profit and municipal long-term-care homes across the province as an association providing advocacy, education and other services.

Harrison explained professionally it’s recognition his board colleagues trust and have faith in him.

“The board chair is only as good as the rest of the team, and we work collaboratively. That will absolutely be the hallmark of what I am going to be working on with them. How do we do it better together?”

He added the sector is on the back end of the pandemic and he’d like to think the worst is over. Many homes including Nithview in New Hamburg are either redeveloping or looking to redevelop. Harrison said the timing is right for long-term care to look at artificial intelligence and technology.

“We are all embracing what that could bring to how we support seniors when they are in our care but also what that does to the design and development of our homes.”

Additionally, he said there is a shifting demographic in long-term care. People in their 80s and older today didn’t have access to the computer world when they were growing up, but those a little younger entering care now did have somewhat of an introduction to technology.

“They were the kids who grew up with the Commodore 64 when computers were just starting to arrive and their demands on us as providers of services for seniors in the community are very different. They are the walking embodiment of early adopters of technology. We are having to shift gears on how we will adapt to the ever-changing needs of those coming into our care.”

He added the sector is looking at how it can grow long-term care homes with technological resources to support the demand from residents.

“It’s here to stay. This isn’t a blip and it will continue to grow and morph. We’re going to have to keep pace with that changing demand.”

Just like any other publicly funded healthcare industry, long-term care lobbies the government to receive what they believe will help the sector and residents. They provide a pre-budget submission where wants and needs are highlighted along with funding suggestions. Harrison said the relationship with government will continue to play an important role.

“Advocacy needs to ensure a deep and profound understanding of what senior care is becoming. Not what it was, but what it will be going forward. We spend a lot of time working with the financial-services side of things to the most senior and bureaucratic team members to help them fully understand what it’s like on the front line.”

He added over the last few years of his time on the board and with Tri-County, the sector changes quickly and when you think you understand what’s going on today, that could be challenged a few days later.

“It is the pace of change and demands placed on seniors’ care to be proactive, thoughtful, engaging and to listen to the residents and families, and respond. We need to truly listen and hear what their desires are as they age in long-term-care homes across the province.”

Harrison has over 20 years of experience in health care and social services, and has a PhD in medical anthropology and community/public health at the University of Toronto.

For more than 100 years, AdvantAge Ontario has been a strong voice for not-for-profit seniors’ care in Ontario. Harrison said he’s looking forward to engaging with his new board in a new and exciting path forward where they are going to work hard to listen, respond and react.

“We are going to demonstrate that strategic thinking we have been known for over the years to bring all of that work forward. We will work with our colleagues at the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, Ontario Hospital Association and Ontario Medical Association. We are all partners in the health-care system. Our job is to continue forward.”

He added there is room for everyone at the table and there is an absolute need to work well together to continue to support the people of Ontario.

AdvantAge represents more than 500 providers of long-term care, seniors’ housing, supportive housing and community service agencies, including 98 per cent of all municipal long-term care homes and 83 per cent of all not-for-profit long-term-care homes.

Harrison will continue in his role as CEO of Tri-County Mennonite Homes.


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