Health P.E.I. to be headed by former Ontario associate deputy minister of health

Melanie Fraser will be the new CEO of Health P.E.I., following in the footsteps of Dr. Michael Gardam and interim CEO Corinne Rowswell at the helm of the provincial health agency.

Melanie Fraser will be new CEO, replacing Dr. Michael Gardam

Smiling blonde woman in blue business suit.
The province says executive search firm Odgers Berndtson helped in the process of recruiting and hiring Melanie Fraser as Health P.E.I.'s new chief executive officer. (Submitted by Health P.E.I.)

Melanie Fraser will be the new CEO of Health P.E.I., following in the footsteps of Dr. Michael Gardam and interim CEO Corinne Rowswell at the helm of the provincial health agency.

Provincial Health and Wellness Minister Mark McLane and the Health P.E.I. board of directors jointly announced Fraser's appointment on Wednesday.

"With her vast experience, dedication and passion for health care, she will be an excellent leader for our Island's health authority and all those who work within the health care system," McLane was quoted as saying in a provincial news release.

He also thanked Rowswell for "showing an incredible amount of strength in this leadership role while navigating the everchanging landscape of our health system."

Fraser has an executive MBA from the Ivey Business School at Western University.

She has held several high-ranking positions with the Ontario government, including time as the associate deputy minister for health, the province's corporate chief information officer, chief administrative officer at Treasury Board and the director of operations for the Ontario Death Investigation System. 

Man in blue business jacket speaks into a microphone as a woman with long blond hair looks on from the next seat at the podium table.
Health P.E.I. CEO Corinne Rowswell, right, looks on as Health Minister Mark McLane speaks to a crowded town hall meeting in Summerside on Feb. 1. The topic was cuts to critical care service at the Prince County Hospital. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

"I am thrilled to be joining the Health P.E.I. team," the news release quoted Fraser as saying. "This is an exciting opportunity to have impact when it matters most and work alongside some of the most dedicated and compassionate people."

CBC News asked for an interview with Fraser, but the Department of Health and Wellness said she would not be available until she has begun her position and is settled in on the Island.

Rowswell had been the agency's chief operating officer but stepped up to be interim CEO on Jan. 1, 2024, to replace Gardam. 

Gardam, an internationally known infectious disease specialist who was also an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, came on board with Health P.E.I. at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and stayed for three years.

Colourful time in job

His tenure was marked by frank talk on the challenges facing the Island's medical system — so frank that he sometimes clashed with provincial politicians in public. Among other things, Gardam said: 

  • Health P.E.I. has never been allowed to operate at arm's length from government.
  • The agency was never consulted about the government's promise during the 2023 election campaign to get 30,000 people off the provincial patient registry and into a medical home by the end of 2024.
  • The province doesn't have enough doctors to support a new medical school at UPEI and would be hard-pressed to recruit enough by the time it opens within the next few years. 

In the end, Gardam was told earlier this month that he should consider himself no longer working in an advisory capacity for Health P.E.I., weeks before his planned departure at the end of March. 

P.E.I. health-care system 'close to real trouble'

3 months ago
Duration 1:52
Former Health P.E.I. CEO Dr. Michael Gardam tells a legislative committee the system is close to collapse if immigration continues and recruitment challenges aren't addressed.

That's even though he was supposed to be playing a role in negotiations with the P.E.I. Medical Society on a new master agreement with family physicians. 

Rowswell will stay in the CEO's office until March 10, and Fraser will start work on March 11. 

"She has a track record of successfully leading in complex, multi-stakeholder environments and is known for delivering results," Wednesday's news release said of Fraser. "Melanie is highly regarded for her strategic and very collaborative approach and is known as a compelling communicator who confidently gains buy-in from stakeholder[s].

"She is a calm and thoughtful people leader who takes pride in building high-functioning, diverse teams and values-based culture."