Peter Fearrey worked his way up from his first position as an orderly to director of facilities and services at the end of his career 43 years later. / File photo

After four decades with HHHS Fearrey retires

When Peter Fearrey was just a teenager he left school to help his family out. Though his mom was disappointed she drove Peter who had just finished Grade 10 to Hyland Crest.

“In those days if you were a good worker you had a job” said Fearrey. “I asked my mom to give me a car ride to Hyland Crest. They had a big lawn – I thought if nothing else maybe they’d let me cut the grass.”

Fearrey began working as an orderly with the male residents at the long-term care facility in 1974.

Forty-three years later he’s retiring from the Haliburton Highlands Health Services as director of facilities and projects.

“It was the best car ride my mom ever gave me” he said.

As an orderly Fearrey loved hearing stories about Algonquin Park and canoe building that the residents shared but after less than two years in the position he took on a role as maintenance lead that brought increased responsibilities over the years – everything from heliport manager to project liaison to water plant operator to environmental supervisor.

“As much as I had on my plate it made it easier” he said. “Because if somebody gave me a phone call for a troubleshoot I’ve probably had something to do in my career with it to think about how are we going to get this equipment or get through this emergency.”

After years of experience culminating in the director of facilities and projects role Fearrey said education is always ongoing and so through the years he was able to complete his high school education and a diploma in clinical administration as well as countless courses and certification.

“As I got going through my career I decided I know there’s going to be an opportunity sometimes where I can possibly qualify myself to apply for a different position and that’s when I really took the initiative to go forward with my education.”

In decades of employment with HHHS Fearrey has seen tremendous change – he’s seen amalgamation of services worked with 10 CEOs and been a major contributor as facilities grew. He evaluated and took inventory at the old Red Cross hospital in Minden and also worked through renovations additions refurbishing and construction of new facilities including the Community Support Services building in Haliburton and GAIN building in Minden.

“I had a real opportunity to know where every nut and bolt was” he said. “We had to keep facilities operational. I would go in with contractors and read the plans and take a look at what direction we had to go to still provide service while construction was happening.”

Kellie Churko manager of health information services and privacy and FOI co-ordinator at HHHS has worked with Fearrey for 17 years and said his accomplishments are too numerous to mention.

“The growth of this organization has been enormous and it happened so quickly” she said. “With the addition of so many different services we have acquired more properties to accommodate them which all must be maintained. The knowledge Peter has about the inner workings of this entire organization is immeasurable.”

This knowledge of infrastructure the teams that work within the buildings the equipment that is used in each room and the workings of patient care was evident recently when Fearrey took on a major flooring replacement at both the Minden and Haliburton hospitals. The project involved removing every piece of equipment in a room and relocating staff even organizing portable kitchens and moving X-ray machines while still keeping operations running smoothly.

“It was an amazing project with a very sensitive timeline and I met it” he said. “And the only reason I did shows what you can do when you have an amazing team. Without them it was an impossible project but it all unfolded beautifully. If we did the offices we took every piece of furniture out and had to make certain those administrators had a work area. When you’re walking through just imagine those areas that are high traffic – we had to co-ordinate when that would happen. Imagine taking that whole nursing station out of there but doing it in such a way we could still put together a small nursing station to keep operating.”

Fearrey’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by staff who speak of his teamwork and support.

“Peter has a big heart and goes out of his way to try and meet everyone’s needs – even when he is extremely busy” said Carolyn Plummer HHHS CEO. “He recognizes the importance that well-maintained facilities has for all of the people we serve; he consistently reminds his colleagues and his staff that the work they are doing is of value and is the right thing to do for our patients residents and clients. He also goes out of his way to understand appreciate and support the work that his staff are doing – and he does this by rolling up his sleeves and working alongside them.”

His family at home – Fearrey has four daughters – saw first-hand the effort he poured into each project.

“While many of the bigger projects at HHHS were evident most are unaware that he often worked through the night ensuring projects such as drywalling painting and waxing the floors were completed so that the patients public and residents were not inconvenienced” said Angela Russell Fearrey’s daughter and long-term care worker at HHHS. “He loved working hands-on and did a lot of these projects on his own with the help of his amazing team of employees.”

Another project that Fearrey was instrumental in implementing is the 2010 to 2011 addition of what Canadian Healthcare Facilities the journal of Canadian Healthcare Engineering Society called a “ground-breaking energy efficiency project involving solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling.”

The award-winning energy infrastructure project was detailed in a story called “Cottage Country Goes Cutting Edge” and in 2012 resulted in energy savings of $190000 and avoided maintenance costs of $12000 as well as reduced energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

“We were the first rural area to even venture into green energy because of not being supplied with natural gas or things that would make these types of transitions easy” said Fearrey. “It was not only a contribution toward savings for the hospital but also something we’d done for the community by holding back all of the emissions. That would be the project I was the most proud of because I spent a lot of time on the research of it. All of this stuff was stuff … was very exciting not only to be part of it but to follow it right through to today.”

Fearrey is also proud of the palliative care addition a project that became a goal as he neared retirement.

“This was a massive project that involved a significant amount of work to tie in to our existing building and involved a lot of stakeholders within and outside of the organization” said Plummer. “Although we had a contractor Peter was responsible for providing project leadership and oversight – and the project was a huge success.”

“The palliative addition … was for me one of the projects that was exciting because of so much community support” said Fearrey.

Fearrey has been a champion for his colleagues delegating tasks to help improve efficiency of operations while empowering staff with independence.

“How I look at my staff I was never a boss I was one of them” he said. “I was a leader if they needed direction and always listened but I don’t call them my staff I call them my family. They’re dedicated and loyal the true heroes a great team and great family.”

HHHS colleagues are sad to see Fearrey go but hopeful that retirement will serve him well.

“He deserves the best life has to offer and now he’ll have the time to do just that” said Churko. “It’s time for him to take back a little of all he’s given of himself in the last 40 plus years and I wish him a long healthy happy retirement.”

“It’s not been boring” said Fearrey. “And when I leave I haven’t left the facilities in any worse shape than when we started maintaining them. I’m walking away quite proud.”

After years of a steady flow of phone messages and emails and 1 a.m. pager calls to respond to Fearrey is keen to disconnect for some time.

“Do you know what I’m really happy about?” he said. “I’m going to take the first month and find myself because I’ve worn a pager 24 hours a day for 26 years.”

Fearrey hopes to spend time with his horses who like listening to him he said although he noted they might become bored of him after the first week.

“I just want to sit back and enjoy it.”