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Meet two local leaders who want Ottawa to lead the country in health-care reform

Amita Kochar, CEO of The HARLEY and Nathalie Cadieux, CFO of the Ottawa Hospital believe innovation is the way forward

Two women
Amita Kochar, CEO of The HARLEY and Nathalie Cadieux, CFO of the Ottawa Hospital

No one can argue that health-care systems around the world are in crisis.

The pandemic stretched resources beyond their limits and the increased need for care shows no signs of abating. COVID-19, however, isn’t entirely to blame. 

“People are living longer with illnesses they used to die from,” said Nathalie Cadieux, chief financial officer and executive vice-president of finance and business development at the Ottawa Hospital (TOH). “We’re proud to be saving lives, but we can’t ignore the pressure it’s putting on the system.” 

That’s why the hospital is exploring new ways to serve the community. 

“We’re calling it ‘post-COVID recovery’,” said Cadieux. 

Creating capacity in the public health system

As CFO, Cadieux manages a balancing act between building financial strength and allocating resources. One tool that she and CEO Cameron Love are exploring to strike this balance are public-private partnerships (PPPs).

About a year ago, one group’s offering captured their attention: The Harley Street Healthcare Group (HSHG), which brings 50 years of experience managing a PPP in the U.K.. 

Their proposal stood out from other offerings because it doesn’t involve transferring patients from a public to a private system. 

“They’re offering capital capacity for infrastructure — like an operating room or diagnostic imaging centre,” said Cadieux. “But the patients would remain the patients of the hospital, and the physicians would remain physicians of the hospital.”

The HSHG is also committed to reinvesting a portion of their profits back into the public system to help further ease restraints.

The Harley Street model

Ottawa local Amita Kochar is CEO of the HSHG in Canada. “Our number one priority is to take as much pressure off the system as we can so we can help reduce wait times and other barriers to accessing care,” she said.

While Kochar may be known best as a local entrepreneur and philanthropist, her passion for health-care goes back to her youth. As an 18-year-old college student, she faced a life-altering challenge of her own: she was in New York City on 9/11. 

As she watched her fellow students struggle to cope with the trauma by turning to drugs and alcohol, she was dealing with crippling anxiety.

“When you’re a teenager, you don’t have coping skills for something like this,” said Kochar. “I developed uncontrollable anxiety and agoraphobia that resulted in panic attacks.” She tried medication, but it didn’t solve the problem. 

During a visit to India, her parents suggested complementary therapies. “Within two to three weeks I was feeling better — I could go to a restaurant again,” said Kochar. The experience even inspired her to become a reiki practitioner.

Today she wants to help others struggling with similar health challenges. “Our 360 degrees of health approach incorporates my experience with ancient practices, health-care operations, foundation and donor experience, as well as my business experience,” said Kochar.

Innovation and integrated care are the way forward

Prioritizing innovation in the Canadian health-care system is a fairly new proposition, but TOH is committed to making it work. 

“Innovation and integration of care are at the forefront of our strategic plan,” said Cadieux.  

That focus appealed to the HSHG. “They’ve reached a point where they know they have a problem and they genuinely want to solve it,” said Kochar. 

Since it’s the first time TOH has considered a partnership like this, they’re doing their due diligence. “We’re taking baby steps to make sure we understand the risks and seek the proper approvals,” said Cadieux.

What the two parties have built so far is a foundation of mutual trust and respect. “They’re a very forward-thinking team that’s going to set a precedent in Canada,” said Kochar.

Cadieux returned the sentiment. “The HSHG team truly wants to make a difference,” she said. “They’re being very patient with us, and we’re getting close.”