Crossroads: Ida Goodreau

Goodreau, who for nearly seven years headed Vancouver Coastal Health, B.C.’s largest health authority, left the post in February 2009 for Toronto-based LifeLabs

Word has it you’re splitting time between Vancouver and T.O.
Yes, I am. I have my home base on Bowen Island and an apartment in Toronto’s Bloor West Village. I plan to spend half of my time in each place, which will enable me to stay involved here in the Vancouver Board of Trade, B.C. Business Council and Vancouver Foundation.

What is LifeLabs, exactly?
It’s the largest private medical laboratory testing company in Canada. LifeLabs performs tests when people go to their GP and then processes the results. We have about 200 patient service centres across the two provinces.

You’ve been on the job several weeks now. Do you have a sense of your mission yet?
What I’m hoping is that we can help move diagnostics into areas like chronic diseases management. Diagnostics plays a role in being able to prevent chronic diseases and to manage them – and, in the new world of genomics, to be able to predict the problems people might have.

Would you say there’s room in the public sector for private-sector values?
I think there can be, if it’s healthy. Competition can be healthy if the focus is on wanting to have better quality, better service. The only areas where LifeLabs would want to compete is in providing better quality of care, better service. Beyond that, our mandate is to work as effectively as possible with the public sector.

Why did you leave Vancouver Coastal Health?
I’d been there for seven years and did a lot of things that were important to me. With the LifeLabs opportunity I’m excited to be focusing on a smaller aspect of the health equation. I left the authority feeling that the team I had had done a great job. And it was time for some new challenges.

What is your management style?
I like to get things done. Sometimes that means you have to drive change, sometimes encourage it. If you drive all the time, it’s very hard for people. But there are times when change is difficult for an organization, and that is an appropriate time to drive.

Professionally, have you had to do anything differently as a woman?
I spent the early part of my career in very male-dominated industries. I found that in the early days – the ’80s and ’90s – people reacted with novelty when they saw a female executive in forestry or energy. But I never really had a problem. It really comes down to whether you’re a person who’s able to get the work done.

It’s Saturday at 2 p.m. What are you doing?
On a good day, I’d be on Bowen Island, sitting out on the deck, having smoked salmon on a bagel.

What will be the biggest challenge in Canadian health care in the next decade?
The boomers will start to need more services. We’re going to see people who have a high expectation of living life fully and independently, and that will require a lot of medical and non-medical support. People often wish they could just take a healthy pill. But it’s going to be a lot more demanding than that.