We are thrilled to introduce Scarborough Health Network’s (SHN) 2024 Community Advisory Council (CAC)! Comprised of 17 passionate volunteers, the CAC serves as our “community voice” and a direct connection between the hospital and the community.

This dynamic group plays a vital role in acting as an advisory resource to the hospital’s Board of Directors, serving as a formal mechanism for the exchange of ideas and discussion of community concerns, strengthening and maintaining partnerships between the community and the hospital, and serving as one of the hospital’s communications and outreach channels to the community.

The CAC is active and engaged on several key priorities for the hospital. This year they have already worked on SHN’s Strategic Plan 2024-2029 and the Build It Forward redevelopment projects that will ensure our hospitals’ services and facilities meet Scarborough’s evolving needs into the future, and transform healthcare for our diverse and growing community. ​

We spoke with Omaje Akal, chair of SHN’s CAC, to learn more about him and what he hopes to achieve in his role.

Meet Omaje!

A Scarborough native and former SHN staff member and patient, Omaje is passionate about improving the healthcare system and quality of care in Scarborough. In his five-year career with SHN, Omaje held clinical and non-clinical roles, including as a unit clerk in the emergency department.

Q: What motivated you to join the CAC as a former SHN staff member? What do you hope to achieve in your role?

A: I joined the CAC because I wanted to continue my involvement with SHN and contribute to its vision and mission of delivering exceptional care for our patients and their families. As a former staff member and healthcare advisory consultant who works with various healthcare organizations, I want to bring my perspective to this group, especially now with all of the investments and plans that SHN and the city have for improving healthcare in Scarborough.

I want the CAC to act as the voice of our community. By working together, I hope to bring our community’s health needs to the forefront and work in partnership with SHN’s Senior Leadership Team and Board of Directors to continue to deliver exceptional quality care.

Q: What does Scarborough mean to you/what makes Scarborough special?

A:  Scarborough means everything to me. You have to understand that before it went mainstream to represent and love Scarborough, I was already doing this, while going to school, working, and living here. Scarborough is home. Some would go as far as saying I am a “Scarborough Man” as I embrace the people, food, and culture to my core. Scarborough is one of those unique places because everyone has a similar experience growing up here, i.e., running to catch that last RT train at Kennedy station, having James Loader rip our tickets at the Morningside Theatre, or performing folk dance at Albert Campbell Square. Although we all come from areas all over the world, Scarborough’s rich diversity is reflected in SHN’s teams and really reflects the community we live in.

Q: What do you think SHN means to the Scarborough community?

A: SHN is a leader and partner in the community, as it has been very active and visible with the COVID-19 vaccine campaigns and pop-up clinics, for example. SHN has also worked hard to build strong relationships with schools, faith-based institutions, and other organizations across Scarborough, including community health partners. For this reason, people feel a sense of pride and are happy to say that SHN is their home hospital.

Q: Do you have a story/anecdote that you would like to share with us about a time you witnessed/experienced exceptional quality care?

A: One story that comes to my mind is when I was working in the emergency department, and I saw how the staff handled a very difficult situation with a patient who was experiencing a mental health crisis. Staff remained very calm and compassionate, and used de-escalation techniques and verbal communication to try to calm the patient. I was very impressed by how they respected the patient’s dignity, and how they worked as a team to provide exceptional quality care.

Q: What do you identify as our strengths? What is something you would want to improve or enhance?

A: Our clinical teams are a true reflection of the Scarborough community, which inspires people from our community to want to work here and receive care from us. 

I would like to improve or enhance our customer service/patient service mentality, and strive for a level of customer service that rivals other industries. This work is underway with the PeopleFirst: Compassionate Care Training program for all leaders, staff, and doctors.

I also think we can be more intentional about recognizing the people behind the scenes who enable the clinical teams to deliver great quality care, such as IT, support services, communications, strategy and transformation, and other important corporate functions.

We are excited to see the impact that Omaje and the rest of the CAC will have on our community. Their passion, dedication, and commitment to improving the healthcare system in Scarborough community is truly inspiring. We are confident that with their guidance and input, SHN will continue to deliver exceptional quality care and strengthen its partnerships with the community.