Change of Command and Transfer of Appointment in Canadian Forces Health Services Group

July 21, 2020 - Defence Stories

signature of the scrolls

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson presided over the signature of the scrolls for the official Transfer of Surgeon General Appointment from Major-General Andrew Downes to Major-General Marc Bilodeau.

Ottawa, Ontario — Rear-Admiral (RAdm) Rebecca Patterson assumed command of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group (21) and Major-General (MGen) Marc Bilodeau, the duties of Surgeon General for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in a Change of Command and Transfer of Appointment ceremony on July 7th, 2020 at NDHQ (Carling) Ottawa.

In a ceremony that ensured all appropriate physical distancing guidelines were observed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the new Commander and Surgeon General were formally introduced to a small in-person audience, including; General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff. The ceremony was live streamed on the CF H Svcs Gp Facebook page. Vice-Admiral (VAdm) Haydn Edmundson, Commander, Military Personnel Command, presided over the change of command and appointment–the certificate signing portions of the ceremony–and spoke to the importance of the ceremony itself.

“Today is important for many reasons. It’s important because it’s traditional to transfer authorities in command between great leaders in the Canadian Armed Forces”, said VAdm Edmundson. “It is important also based on the multifaceted nature of the command - the provision of health care services to all members wherever they serve, whether at home or abroad in a complex, unique and challenging operational role and superimpose on top of that the responsibilities to recruit, train, professionally develop every one of those individuals in an environment which is dynamic and changing all the time. The complexities are huge, but not insurmountable.”

signature of the scrolls

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson presided over the signature of the scrolls for the Canadian Forces Health Services Group Change of Command from Major-General Andrew Downes to Rear-Admiral Rebecca Patterson.

Speaking to attendees, with the vast majority of them tuning in virtually, RAdm Patterson reiterated the priority CF H Svcs Gp places on operational excellence and ensuring a continued healthy workforce. “As you can see from the dividing of the authorities and accountabilities today between the positions of Commander and Surgeon General, there will be a concentrated focus by senior leadership to ensure that both the CAF and CFHS are ready to face both the near and future fight, whatever that’s going to look like, she said. “I remain determined to ensure that the conditions are in place so that each member of our team can work in an inclusive and respectful environment that respects the person you are and the unique talents that you bring to the table. We need to ensure that all of our members are at their best, and that means being of healthy mind and healthy body and it means being valued for your contributions.”

RAdm Patterson also thanked outgoing Commander, Major-General (MGen) Andrew Downes, who is retiring on July 31, 2020 after nearly 31 years of loyal and dedicated military service.

“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your excellent leadership that you’ve not only shown to CFHS in your role as Commander and Surgeon General over the last three years, but throughout your career. You have set Marc and me up for success in these uncertain times and I will always appreciate the grace with which you have accepted your fate that your remaining time in uniform has been spent out of necessity as an exhilarating mix of racing to a five alarm fire while confronting one of the biggest health threats of our generation.”

RAdm Patterson spent the first part of her military career as a Critical Care Nursing Officer (CCNO). Though institutional requirements necessitated an occupational transfer to Health Services Operations Officer (HSO) in the late 90s, RAdm Patterson has maintained her nursing registration and is; therefore, the first registered nurse and 10th woman in the CAF to achieve the rank of RAdm/MGen. Her promotion marks a significant milestone in nursing history during this International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. This will be RAdm Patterson’s fourth Command appointment. Previous commands include Canadian Forces Health Services Centre (Atlantic), Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre (Borden) and 1 Health Services Group (Edmonton). She served as Deputy Commander of the CF H Svcs Gp and most recently as Director General, Professional Military Conduct – Operation HONOUR. These experiences combined with international deployments to Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Afghanistan, have culminated in an impressive portfolio that will serve Canadian Forces Health Services well as the organization moves ahead on a multi-year modernization project.

Major-General Andrew Downes

Major-General Andrew Downes is presented with two gifts in recognition of his mandate - A decanter and tumblers created by the Glencairn Crystal Studio of Scotland. The items were personalized for MGen Downes with details of his service, as well as the insignia of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Canadian Forces Health Services Group, the Royal Canadian Medical Service and the Royal Canadian Dental Corps.

As the new Surgeon General, MGen Bilodeau spoke to the priorities that he would like to implement and concentrate on in the next few years, including work with CF H Svcs Gp partnerships. “We depend on many civilian health care organizations to provide care to our members and all provinces and territories are contributing to that specialized care”, he said. “We are also partnering with federal government departments and national health care organizations as key partners that give us a seat at their tables as the 14th Canadian health care system. Our international partners are also very important for us and the recent pandemic has allowed us to improve the sharing of best practices between us, which I think will make us stronger overall. It has been clearly reenergized recently.” MGen Bilodeau also mentioned CF H Svcs Gp supporters, both current and past members of the RCMS and RCDC that are now constituting the association of those two organizations.

Over the course of his distinguished career in the CAF, MGen Bilodeau has served in numerous senior leadership roles, including Director of Medical Policy at Health Services Group Headquarters in Ottawa, and Commander of 1 Health Services Group in Edmonton. Since 2019, MGen Bilodeau has served as Director General of Clinical Services and Deputy Surgeon General.

In his address, MGen Downes expressed his gratitude and pride in serving with the CF H Svcs Gp over the years, as well as his full confidence in RAdm Patterson and MGen Bilodeau to continue to provide strong leadership. “I am certain that our health care system continues to be in good hands.”

“It has been an honour serving as Surgeon General these past three years. To the almost 6,000 people of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group, regular force, reserves, as well as public servants and contractors, I thank you for all that you do. No matter your occupation or your assigned role, you make a difference in keeping our great health system going.”

CF H Svcs Gp provides health services across Canada and overseas to Canadian military personnel and to any other populations as directed by the Minister of National Defence.

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