Manitoba government appoints new Winnipeg Regional Health Authority board chair

The Manitoba government has replaced the chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) one week after the post was vacated over travel controversy.

Patricia Solman will take the spot left open by Wayne McWhirter, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson announced in a news release Monday.

“Pat’s background and expertise in leading people and managing complex systems make her an ideal choice to oversee the board of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority,” Stefanson said in the release.

“Pat is a respected and experienced leader who is well-positioned to oversee the WRHA’s role in responding to challenges posed by the pandemic and delivering quality care for the people it serves.”

Read more: Winnipeg Regional Health Authority chair steps down after reported trip during pandemic

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Solman brings a lengthy history of executive leadership positions with her, according to the province, most recently serving as vice-chair of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

Prior to this, she spent 30 years at Manitoba Telecom Systems, working from treasurer to vice-president of customer service, to vice-president of operations, and finally senior vice-president of network and field services — the first woman to hold the position.

Additionally, the release says Solman held senior board positions at the United Way, and also served three years on the national board of Canadian Women in Communications and Technology.

Solman’s appointment comes a week after Premier Brian Pallister announced McWhirter would be stepping down over reports he had travelled to the southern United States amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Winnipeg Free Press was the first to report Wayne McWhirter left for Arizona last month, where he said he told the paper he was working remotely.

Read more: Politicians travelling amid COVID-19 should fear voters, Manitoba professor says

In a very brief news release on Feb. 1, Pallister wrote government Order-in-Council appointees “including those serving on agencies, boards, and commissions may not travel for leisure purposes outside permitted travel areas, effectively immediately. Should they do so, their appointment will be terminated.”

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“After discussion with my officer, Wayne McWhirter will be stepping down as chair of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority,” Pallister concluded.

Although such travel wasn’t expressly forbidden, it came as health officials had spent weeks pleading with Manitobans to refrain from all unnecessary travel to stem the tide of COVID-19.

In the release, Stefanson thanks McWhirter for “his service and dedication to guiding improvements to the health care system.

Regional health authority boards are responsible for direction the region’s management and affairs to ensure the administration of health services, according to the province.

— With files from Shane Gibson

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