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. 

Learn how you can become a Patient, Family & Advisory Council member here

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.   

Debi Fitzpatrick, Falmouth

Debi Fitzpatrick is an artist who has worked in sales and management. Her experience supporting numerous family members navigate the health care system adds a unique lens to the Patient, Family, and Public Advisory Council. An active member in her community, Debi is passionate about making things better for patients and their family.

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.

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.

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.

Susan Nasser, Halifax

Susan Nasser learned the importance of inter-professional collaboration from her career in social work and public health. She has been a long-time advocate for the relationship between the health care system and an equitable and prosperous province. Susan brings to the Patient, Family and Public Advisory Council experience as a member of the Board of the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Nova Scotia, the Capital District Health Authority Ethics Review Board and the Advisory Committee on Adjudicative Boards for the Department of Health and Wellness.

Marcie Shwery-Stanley, Sydney

Marcie Shwery-Stanley, BA, MBA, worked for 26 years at Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation as a Communications Officer, and is now retired. Marcie is a woman with a disability and her 37 years of advocacy work with regard to women and disability issues is extensive. It has included serving on: the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Marine Atlantic’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, the Persons with Disabilities Partnership Association for the C. B. Regional Municipality and Victoria County, and past Co-Chair of the CBRM Human Rights Affirmative Action Committee. Presently, she is Chair of the Society for the Improvement of Accessible Transportation, a member of Nova Scotia Dept. of Justice’s Accessibility Advisory Board and the Horizon Achievement Centre. She has been recognized for her work by Marine Atlantic for her contribution to its Accessibility Advisory Committee; by the Canadian Paraplegic Association with its Excellence Award; and by PANNS with the Mel Hebb Award, to name a few. Marcie is a strong believer in person-centered care and has been a care giver to her mother and also a care receiver in various models of homecare in Canada and the United States.

Len Thomas (Co-Chair),  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 (Co-Chair), 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.

Ron Williams, Sydney

Ron Williams brings decades of experience in management to the Patient, Family, and Public Advisory Council. He has extensive volunteer experience as a board member for numerous organization including the Canadian Health Association, the Health Association of NS and the Lumen Institute, where he served as the National Chair. A past board member of the Cape Breton District Health Authority, Ron brings his same patient-centric focus to this role.