Covenant Health
This week's reflection

This week's reflection

I am even more deeply pleased if it has helped to encourage the young people that have followed our generation to express their pride in our heritage more openly, more joyfully than I would have ever dared to think possible.

Daphne Odjig

Ed Stelmach announced as new Covenant Health Board Chair

February 16, 2016

Ed StelmachFormer premier brings passion for Catholic health to new position

The way Ed Stelmach sees it; he owes a debt of gratitude to the Catholic Sisters for leaving a good impression on him at a very early age.

The newly-appointed Covenant Health Board Chair says the history and legacy of Catholic healthcare led him to his new position, announced at Covenant’s Annual General Meeting Oct. 21. Stelmach replaces outgoing Board Chair John Brennan.

“Catholic health services are very dear to me simply because of how the Sisters became such a welcoming and very integral part of my life at a critical moment,” says Stelmach, former premier of Alberta.  “In grade one, I had a serious incident on a playground slide where I had a double fracture of my femur where the bone almost sticks out from the skin.”

Stelmach says his brother found him on the playground and he was brought to a hospital in Mundare under the Sisters’ care.

"In the hospital, they put my leg in a brace with tape on either side, moved me into a six-person ward and that was a place I occupied for  two months and then I stayed a while longer in a body cast,” says Stelmach.

Being of Ukrainian descent and not speaking English, Stelmach recalls there was no television, no kindergarten and no other interventions to keep a school-age patient occupied.

“The Sisters took it upon themselves to teach me to read, speak English, teach arithmetic and they assigned responsibilities to different patients in the ward – one patient read with me, one fellow taught math to me,” says Stelmach. “The Sisters did this solely on their volunteer time. So forever, they played an integral part of my life.”

Stelmach says the kind of support he remembers as a child is exactly the reason why Covenant Health is a vital part of Alberta’s healthcare system. He believes it is a compelling story that still has relevance today—for citizens of Alberta and for the health care system that serves them.

“Not only did we play an integral role in putting the fabric of health care together in Alberta,” says Stelmach.  “We can expand and support government  today--not only in acute care and continuing care, but in mental health too.”

He also believes that in today’s world, people are looking for more from a healthcare provider than just medicine or treatment.

“My personal observation is that, in the face of a catastrophic event, a serious illness, an accident or a premature death in the family, people seek so much emotional support.  As a faith based organization, Covenant Health  is able to help heal the whole person – mind, body and soul,” says Stelmach. “It’s our culture, we grew up with it – that’s the Sisters legacy.”

He believes government needs partners like Covenant Health and others to ensure the long term sustainability of our system: “I am always convinced that, while government sets direction,  they do need partners to help. Government can’t do it alone and will never be able to do it alone.”

“The story of Catholic healthcare is a story of faith, courage, compassion and astute leadership,” says Stelmach. ‘It’s not a story of religion or politics.”

“I care very deeply about this history and the values the Sisters have,” says Stelmach. “I don’t know how I would have fared if I didn’t have them –I was and am forever grateful.”

In his post-government days, Stelmach continues to serve as a board member for a few organizations and along with his wife, Marie, stays active in the Mundare Catholic community. He also does a bit of farming and keeps up with his seven grandkids.