Jeff Heuchert email@example.com
Friends and family gathered at Greenwood Court Friday for a memorial service to say goodbye to one of Stratford’s most respected hospital administrators.
Robert (Bob) Cameron, who served as CEO of Stratford General Hospital from 1969-1989, died Jan. 6 at age 83 in the same building where he so tirelessly worked to ensure the very best medical care for residents in the community.
Cameron was predeceased by his wife Claire, and is survived by his children, John and Paul, and six grandchildren.
In was under Cameron’s watch the hospital replaced its rehabilitation and extended care unit, which he achieved by opening a new east wing to the building in 1989. But just four days before its opening, Cameron suffered a stroke that would ultimately lead to his early retirement. He would miss the official opening and, as fate would have it, end up being amongst the initial group of patients to move into the newly opened wing.
Colleen Misener, who served on the hospital’s board of directors for 25 years, most of those under Cameron’s leadership, praised the former CEO for his hands-on approach to the job and for his uncompromising commitment to doing what he felt was in the best interests of the facility and the people it served – even if that meant butting heads with the Ministry of Health, unions, and even some doctors along the way.
“Sometimes if you brought something up at the board level and Bob disagreed, you were in for a good argument,” she laughs. “But in the end it always worked out. Ninety per cent of the time they found out Bob was right.”
Though their paths never crossed professionally, Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance CEO, Andrew Williams, says Cameron’s contributions to local health care are still paying dividends today, most notably with the east building, which he says “took the hospital to a new level” in terms of quality care.
Though the east wing remained unfinished upon its opening, the hospital has used the space in the 25 years since to accommodate significant improvements including a new maternal child unit, mental health unit, and intensive care unit. Then in 2010, the hospital extended the building to include what is known as the north wing, housing state-of-the-art operating rooms and emergency and diagnostic imaging departments.
“I think the plan all along was to finish that building in a way that meets the needs of the people in the community, and we have been able to do that,” Williams adds. “So when I look at the legacy (Cameron) has left, (it’s) the east building, the work he did for its opening, and then what we’ve been able to do subsequently because of it being there.”
In his obituary, which you can read online at the website for the James A Rutherford Funeral home or in this upcoming week’s Stratford Gazette, Cameron is remembered fondly as not only a hospital administrator, but community leader and family man whose hallmarks were integrity, intelligence, and perseverance.
Prior to coming to Stratford, Cameron worked as an assistant administrator at the Moncton Hospital in the late 1950s, and as the administrator of the Kirkland and District Hospital from 1960-1969.
In addition to being active with the Rotary Club and supporting the Stratford Festival, Cameron also served on the board of directors of the Ontario Hospital Association, where Misener says he was often “going to bat” over issues he felt were affecting the hospital’s ability to deliver quality care.
She says no one could ever question Cameron’s dedication, and she suspects he struggled with the decision to retire, even if it was the only real option.
“He was a very optimistic person and he felt he was going to get better. But finally, because of the severity and the complications from the stroke I guess he realized he wouldn’t be able to do what he wanted to do.”
She says his retirement party at the legion, though a sad day, also showed just how well respected Cameron was.
“There was a wonderful turnout in recognition of his contribution to the city. I don’t think there was an empty seat in the whole room.”