“I’ll miss the people the most. That’s what it’s all about.”
The sentiment behind Bob Jeffery’s words could not have been more clear last week as friends, co-workers, and associates gathered to bid farewell to the health planner at the Northwestern Health Unit.
Starting Jan. 7, Jeffery will take up a new position as northern development advisor for the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines in Sudbury.
“The ministry’s getting a lot of issues that have to do with health so they figure there’s enough going on to warrant this position,” he said between handshakes and hugs at last Thursday’s going-away party.
“People were doing bits of what I’ll be doing before, but the Ministry wanted to focus it all into one job,” added Jeffery, noting he’ll be working on almost any project that has to do with health care in Northern Ontario, including the Northern Medical School.
His last day of work here was Friday, and now he will move to Sudbury with his spouse, Tammy, and three children, Tara, Darren, and Tracey.
Ken Allan, team leader for infectious disease control with the Northwestern Health Unit, said Jeffery undoubtedly will be missed.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with Bob. He’s really good at working with community groups and organizations,” Allan said. “And I’ve found him to be a supportive colleague, dedicated to delivering public health care.
“He doesn’t go out there with a program and take a cookie-cutter approach to implementing it—whatever works in Toronto might not work in Northwestern Ontario,” Allan added.
“He likes to get into the community and find out what’s best-suited to their needs.
“He’s also strong in program evaluation, always asking, ‘Are we doing this efficiently?’” Allan remarked. “I think he’s made a big difference in the public health care this health unit has delivered over the years.”
And Jeffery’s track record of being involved in Fort Frances and district will live on long after he goes. In 1982, he started at Family & Children Services here and did a great deal of work with aboriginal children and teens, taking them on canoe trips in Quetico Provincial Park and Trout Lake.
Around this time, he also initiated summer programming for kids at Sunny Cove Camp.
Jeffery then went on to Nelson House, providing affordable housing for those with low incomes, and became a driving force behind the creation of Front Street Manor.
“I think when I look back, providing help with things like these housing projects is a definite highlight,” noted Jeffery.
It was that work that then spurred him to work with people with developmental disabilities, assisting communities in preparing for people coming out of institutions. At this time, he was with the local Canadian Mental Health Association.
Jeffrey contributed to a Northwestern Ontario Directory of Services through the various volunteer bureaus in the region, and also took part in the “Tomorrow” project—a major survey which gauged what residents thought about Fort Frances.
The lengthy document was meant to be a decision-making tool for the municipal government.
He later initiated a Men’s Wellness Group to promote men’s issues, was involved in a project regarding injury prevention in the workplace, and helped found the district Substance Abuse Prevention (SAP) team.
Jeffery also is a member of the programs committee for the World Health Organization conference to held here May 6-8, 2002. “I’m going to try and make it back for that,” he noted.
Jeffery also is known for his love of fishing, canoeing, photography, and journaling—activities he won’t have to forgo in Sudbury. “Geographically, it very much like here,” he said.
At his going-away party, Jeffery was given gifts from several individuals and groups he’s worked with over the years, including a T-shirt signed by the health unit staff, paintings from Vi Plumridge and Jean Richards, a canoe paddle engraved with his name, sweatshirts, hats—and even a homemade tie for his first day of work on the new job.
Meanwhile, Allan, who’s been with the Northwestern Health Unit here since June, 1990, is leaving for a new job as director of nursing and clinical services at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit next month.
“I will be responsible for not only for the programs like disease prevention but some other clinical services I’m not doing now,” said Allan.
“It’s a good career move, a chance to go on and up,” he noted. “But it was difficult to choose what direction to go in because I enjoy working with the staff here.
“This is a really good office, a hard-working group. I’d say it’s the best office in the whole organization,” he remarked.
Allan noted while he starts his new job Jan. 7, he wouldn’t be making the full move to Thunder Bay until June, when his wife, St. Francis teacher Trish Allan, and his sons, Drew, Derek, and Richard, finish the school year.
Dr. Pete Sarsfield, CEO and chief medical officer of the Northwestern Health Unit, said both Jeffery and Allan will be sorely missed.
“These are two great people and they’re going to do well wherever they go,” he remarked.
But as to filling their positions, Dr. Sarsfield noted the matter’s still up in the air.
“After the review, we’re going through a whole managerial restructuring, which means their positions might not be filled, per se,” he noted.
“I’m also not sure they’re going to be replaced in Fort Frances,” he admitted. “We have dwindling funds for programs as it is, and we may have to centralize, i.e. Kenora.
“I don’t like to centralize. I think the de-centralize approach works much better,” Dr. Sarsfield added. “But I don’t have the money.”