She is no longer the interim chief executive officer, she's the CEO.
The Sun Country Regional Health Authority announced Monday morning that Marga Cugnet, who has been serving the local health region as interim CEO for the past 22 months, has been officially appointed to the position.
Marilyn Charlton, chairwoman of the board, made the announcement adding that “we are very fortunate to be able to retain a candidate with Mrs. Cugnet's qualifications. The work she has done for the region as interim CEO for the past 22 months has been exemplary.”
There were 46 applicants for the position once it was posted and Charlton later told The Mercury that their decision was never based on the desire to keep the job within the Sun Country fold, but simply a matter of Cugnet's name coming to the top of the list of applicants.
“The board made the decision to post the job and get the best possible candidate,” said Charlton.
As to why it took so long to reach a decision, Charlton said the board was hampered last year by the pending provincial election in November.
“We wouldn't have been allowed to even advertise the position during the pre-writ period or during the campaign, so that meant if we had started the search earlier, we would have been about half-way through the process and then would have had to stop until after the election,” Charlton said.
The board then went through some changes. Charlton replaced Sharon Bauche as chairwoman while three new people were named to the board, including Estevan Mayor Gary St. Onge who joined Lori Carr as Estevan's representation on the board. It was felt that the newly appointed members needed to be updated and included in the process before making the final decision.
Cugnet has worked for Sun Country ever since it was formed and before that for the Southeast Health District for 30 years. She is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan with a bachelor of science in nursing degree with honours, majoring in administration.
Prior to serving as interim CEO, Cugnet was the vice-president of primary care for SCHR and had extensive experience in various areas of health care including acute and long-term care, home care, emergency medical services, pharmacy, laboratory, medical imaging and health records.
“She has already shown to be a great asset to the health region and we know that good work will continue into the future,” said Charlton.
The chairwoman said neither she nor the board members would be considered to be gun shy following a less than satisfactory result the last time they went shopping for a new CEO. In fact the interim position came about following the dismissal of former CEO Calvin Tant who, it was revealed, may have been less than forthcoming with the board in his hiring practices. This had led to an earlier dismissal of the chief financial officer Hal Schmidt who had, in turn, not been forthright regarding his credentials and past work experiences. Schmidt had been hired by Tant and thus both men were placed under scrutiny and found wanting.
However, similar hiring practices for senior officers will remain in place, said Charlton, and Cugnet will now be charged with the duty of finding a vice-president of finance as well as someone to take the job as vice-president of primary care, her former position that was left vacant during her term as interim CEO.
Pamela Haupstein, a senior employee in the finance department, had filled the role as interim vice-president of finance for the past two years, but has indicated she is not interested in applying for the position full-time.
Asked if maintaining the status quo with regards to hiring policy — leaving the decision to hire senior administrators solely in the hands of the CEO — might be asking for similar problems going forward, Charlton said she doubted that the problem would surface again and noted that some changes had been incorporated into the board's process that involved more checks and balances.
“We did change some governance, policy and principles and went through the process completely, making changes where they needed to be made,” she said.
Although the contract has not been signed yet, Charlton confirmed that Cugnet has accepted the job and the actual signing will occur later this week.
“We had a special meeting of the board just prior to the announcement to go over the details again. We usually don't meet in July, but made the exception for this,” she said.
“Marga has the respect of the board and staff and we will now carry on during this exciting period in health care. And with Marga already familiar with the processes, this should be a very smooth transition because we have someone in charge who is intimate with what's required in the region.”
Charlton said the terms of the contract stipulate that it is an open position that will be reviewed yearly only there is no probation period included for obvious reasons since Cugnet had already been serving in the capacity for nearly two years.
The CEO for Sun Country will receive in excess of $200,000 in salary. Senior administrators work on a wage scale that provides them with 90 per cent of their agreed-on salary with the final 10 per cent paid at fiscal year end if the department targets are met. The final details surrounding salary arrangements will be made known a bit later but Charlton confirmed that the salary currently in play is in excess of the $200,000.
As far as meeting job expectations, Charlton said she felt confident Cugnet would meet the requirement expected of her by the board, the region and the Ministry of Health since they remain virtually the same as they were while she was serving as CEO on the temporary contract.
“We feel very fortunate to be able to retain her,” Charlton said in conclusion.