Patient, Family & Public Advisory Council

Nova Scotia Health Authority is committed to engaging Nova Scotians in establishing priorities, ensuring that the decisions of Nova Scotia Health Authority are informed by their voice. We engage with Nova Scotians to create a healthier future and are grounded in a culture of patient, family and community-centered service. This approach fosters respectful, compassionate, culturally appropriate, and competent service that is responsive to the needs, values, beliefs and preferences of patients, families and communities. 

Our Patient, Family & Public Advisory Council was formed in the fall of 2016 to advise senior leaders, health care providers, staff and physicians on policies, practices, planning and delivery of patient and family-centered care.  It is a place to ensure patients, families and communities are meaningful partners at all levels of service planning, allowing their perspectives to be heard and thoroughly considered in decision making. 

Volunteer members include:

Margaret Dechman, Sydney

Margaret Dechman is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Cape Breton University. She specializes in the analysis of processes of social exclusion over the life course and the consequences of such exclusion for health and well-being. Her current research is directed toward the development of inclusionary programming for youth and the provision of health-care for individuals who find themselves stigmatized because of drug use and/or conflicts with the law.   

Patricia Gates, Halifax

Patricia Gates is a retiree who worked in an administrative role with Dalhousie University for nearly 20 years. She has significant patient experience in the health system, related to diabetes, vision loss and mobility issues and is an active volunteer in the disability community. Patricia was the first recipient of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s (CNIB) annual Holly Award, presented to exceptional volunteers with vision loss, and she currently chairs both the Halifax Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Access & Awareness NS Chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind. She has recently served on a Department of Community Services panel working towards accessibility legislation and has been active in many other volunteer roles including peer support with the CNIB, and the Disability Partnership, which is a group of more than 25 disability organizations from across N.S. Patricia has always been interested in helping to improve the lives of those who live with disabilities. She believes we have an excellent health care system, but that there are changes that can be made to make the system even better and more accessible for all.

Diane Govindsamy, Halifax

Diane Govindsamy is a teacher, researcher, facilitator, mentor and advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Arts, with a Major in Political Studies, has studied international law and higher education in South Africa and is pursuing her Masters in Adult Education at Mount Saint Vincent University. She is currently the health supports lead with the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children Restorative Inquiry. Her past experiences include serving as the site coordinator for the Cultural Academic Enrichment Program with the Black Educators Association, working as a Cultural Sensitivity Facilitator with PRUDE Inc. (Pride of Race, Unity and Dignity through Education) in New Brunswick and various other teaching and research roles. She is committed to supporting community members as they seek the best health care to suit their needs.

Belle Hatfield, Yarmouth

Belle Hatfield has a background in journalism, with a particular interest in health and health policy. As a young mother, she counselled pregnant and nursing mothers as a local chapter leader in La Leche League International. She also brings to the council perspectives from a lifetime of health advocacy both as a patient and a family member. Those perspectives have been balanced by her six-year tenure on the Provincial Medical Board (Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons), which regulates the practice of medicine in the province. 

Kristen Hemming, Dartmouth – Co-chair

Kristen Hemming is in an undergraduate health promotion student at Dalhousie. Her diagnosis with a chronic pain condition as a child helped her acquire a unique view on the health care system and how patient and family centered care principles can influence care and outcomes. In 2010 she joined the IWK Health Centre’s Youth Advisory Council and later became a member of their Patient and Family Leadership Council, a role she continues to hold today. Last year she attended the Canadian Association of Pediatric Health Centres Canadian Family Advisory Network conference to learn more about patient and family centered care, and how reviewing policies and decisions with a patient and family centered lens can ensure all points of view are addressed. Kristen believes that patient and family centered care is imperative in all care. 

Ted Hobson, Mahone Bay

Ted Hobson grew up in Halifax, spent the next ten years in college and graduate school in the United States and United Kingdom, followed by 30 years in the Canadian Foreign Service, with postings in Pakistan/Afghanistan, Geneva, Paris, Washington, and Saudi Arabia, where he was Ambassador. He serves on the board of directors of the Mahone Bay Centre, where in 2006 he initiated the Mahone Bay Area Seniors Project, with the objective of promoting “independent and active living in a supportive community.” The Seniors Project runs South Shore Helping Hands, with volunteers engaging 20 times a week helping seniors in various ways, including driving to medical appointments and offering companionship.

Cheryl King, Stewiacke

Cheryl King is a caregiver facilitator with the Family Matters in Mental Health program and Families Moving Forward caregiver support group in Colchester East Hants. Being part of this team has given her a broad understanding of the struggles and successes of the many groups of people she works with. She has completed various courses related to mental health awareness and treatment, including Mental Health & Addictions 101’ and the Safe Talk Suicide Awareness course. In 2015 she spoke at the Mental Health Coalition of Nova Scotia about her experiences as a co-facilitator and caring for those experiencing mental health issues. Cheryl believes her experiences have enabled her to understand different points of view with compassion, which will be an asset to the NSHA Patient, Family and Public Advisory Council. 

Maureen Leahey, Pugwash

Maureen Leahey brings a nursing and psychologist background to the Patient Family and Public Advisory Council. Her passion is to increase family involvement in health care. She has volunteered with such groups as Pugwash and Area Community Health Board, Cumberland Health Authority Board, and Pugwash Communities in Bloom, since retiring to Nova Scotia in 2011.

Yvon Leblanc, Margaree Harbour – Co-chair

Yvon Leblanc was born and grew up in Margaree, Cape Breton and is a retired teacher and curriculum consultant. He holds a diploma in lay ministry and has an extensive background in volunteer work, including serving as a member and chair of the former Cape Breton District Health Authority. He enjoys music, travel and lifelong learning and looks forward to advocating for world class health care for all residents of Nova Scotia. 

Sharon Paul-Rudderham, Sydney

Sharon is a Mi’kmaq from the First Nation community of Membertou. For the past 15 years she has served as Health Administrator of the Eskasoni Community Health Centre, providing leadership to community health programs including home care, diabetes education, early intervention, head start, mental health services, primary care and physician services. Today, Sharon is instrumental in the coordination and development of a collaborative network known as the Tuikn Partnership. The partnership includes five Cape Breton Mi’kmaq communities and is focused on the establishment of relationships and negotiations related to health services for their communities. Sharon previously served as term as the Mi’kmaq co-chair of the Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Federal Tripartite Forum Health Committee and continues to participate in many local, provincial and national committees’ on First Nation’s health.

Len Thomas, Lyons Brook

Len Thomas is a retiree and resident of Pictou County. For the past five years he has served as the president of a Pictou area Seniors Club and has held numerous other volunteer roles including serving as a peer facilitator and instructor with the Your Way to Wellness Program, volunteering with the Aberdeen Hospital, United Church, Police Advisory Committee and serving on the boards of the United Way of Pictou Council and Seniors Council of Pictou County. He also works part time with the RCMP. 

Catherine Vey, New Minas

Catherine Vey is an Information Technology professional who has worked in the private and public sector for more than 30 years. She has been an active volunteer in her community, including work with Girl Guides of Canada, Foster Parent Plan of Canada, in delivering stress management and wellness programming and more. She and her multicultural family live in the Annapolis Valley.