He’s a familiar face to many of the staff at Saskatoon City Hospital. Elmer Schwartz was the president and CEO of the facility for many years, and he’s now back at the request of Saskatoon Health Region president and CEO, Dan Florizone, to connect with staff.

Elmer Schwartz

Elmer Schwartz, past president and CEO of Saskatoon City Hospital, is back to connect with staff.

“Dan is really reaching into the past, to find out what was,” Schwartz said. “We are very much on the same wavelength, so he asked me to come in and gauge morale – to compare how things are now to how it was when we had it.”

Under the leadership of Schwartz, Saskatoon City Hospital had a great reputation for innovation, for running in the black financially, and for being open and welcoming. Staff were generally happy, and a very cohesive group at all levels.

“This hospital was the first to do laparoscopic surgery, and the cobalt-60 cancer therapy technology started here,” Schwartz said proudly.

Schwartz did much during his tenure in the building to get to know each staff member.

“The cafeteria drew people, so I tried not to miss coffee breaks. I tried to sit with everyone – nurses, housekeepers, dietary staff, to find out what was going on with the staff.”

Schwartz made a point of knowing the people who worked in the hospital, and was determined to know, from the staff’s perspective, how things were and how they could be improved.

“You need to find out what’s going on with everyone,” he said. “And with 1,000 staff and 200 to 300 doctors in the building, that’s hard to do. It took constant effort.”

With Florizone now the president of the entire Region and its 14,000 employees, it’s a huge undertaking for him to connect personally with each staff member, Schwartz feels.  That’s why he’s called in some help to find out how to build loyalty throughout the Region.

“To organize 14,000 people is no small feat. One individual can’t talk to every person every day,” he said. “So what can you put in place so staff feel a part of something? That’s what I’m looking at.”

For now, Schwartz is only looking at Saskatoon City Hospital.  Already, he’s met with a large number of staff, from nurses to maintenance to housekeeping, and will be attempting to talk to every manager in the building before he provides recommendations for Florizone.

Schwartz has had a varied administrative career. He worked at a bank while attending the University of Minnesota on a hockey scholarship.  When he returned home to Saskatchewan, he worked for SaskPower, the Saskatchewan Department of Highways, Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) and Royal University Hospital, among other businesses and corporations.  He started working at Saskatoon City Hospital in 1971, and became CEO in 1975. He retired officially in June of 1992, but stayed on as a special advisor to the Deputy Minister of Health for a period of 18 months after that.

“I learned lessons every step of the way,” he said. “And I vowed I’d never treat anyone different than I wish to be treated myself. That was my rule and goal as a manager.”

Never be afraid to say you’re sorry, and never be afraid to say you’re wrong – but never make the same mistake twice, were also part of Schwartz’s management philosophy.

He’s always had a natural talent for dealing with people, and hopes he can put it to good use to help the Region.

“The bottom line is you have to treat people with respect and understanding, and get them involved. People are smart,” he said.

“I’m glad to be here. I still love this place, and I’m excited every day about coming to work here.”

Schwartz will be working at City for the next few months. Staff should feel free to share their thoughts with Elmer when he meets with them. You can reach Elmer at Elmer.Schwartz@saskatoonhealthregion.ca or by calling the executive offices at SCH.