Hospital chief of staff steps down to spend more time working with homeless Elizabeth Payne, Ottawa Citizen Dr. Jeff Turnbull, chief of staff at The Ottawa Hospital, is stepping down to devote more time to his passion — working with the homeless.
For years, Turnbull has spent one day a week making house calls at the city’s homeless shelters under a program pioneered in Ottawa and emulated around the world.Demand at the city’s shelters is increasing, and Turnbull said stepping down as chief of staff at the hospital will allow him to devote two or more days a week working in the shelters “where there is increasing requirements for my time and energy. It is an area I am devoted to, so I am going to spend more time at it,” he said this week after his final Ottawa Hospital board meeting as chief of staff.Turnbull, who also serves as chief of clinical quality at Health Quality Ontario, is a former head of the Canadian Medical Association and former vice-dean of medicine at the University of Ottawa. He said he will likely continue to work “in several different roles” at the hospital, including the implementation of a health information system.Turnbull was awarded the Order of Canada in 2007 for his volunteer role as medical director of Ottawa Inner City Health.James McCracken, chair of The Ottawa Hospital’s board of governors, called Turnbull’s work an inspiration, adding the hospital would have liked him to remain as chief of staff for many more years.“Many of you are aware of Jeff’s ongoing work with homeless people in Ottawa through our city shelters,” McCracken said in a letter he read at the hospital board’s annual meeting this week.
“His leadership is an inspiration not only to me and my colleagues on the board but to the community at large.”Turnbull said the health system he created for the homeless is becoming busier all the time. “I think we are victims of our own success.”In addition to shelters, Inner City Health provides managed alcohol programs, stable housing and even palliative care. The agency aims to treat and stabilize the homeless and then work on addictions and mental health challenges.The work, he says, is rewarding.“This is a very challenged group of people and there is a great opportunity to make significant improvements in their lives,” he said.“And every day, I get taught a different lesson by people who are vulnerable and that make me a better person. So I really appreciate that.”