A 30-year career devoted to bettering the lives of seniors

Barbra Gold at the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre
Barbra Gold at the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre

Barbra Gold retires after overseeing transformations in long-term care

Whenever Barbra Gold headed down a hallway at Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre, people would call out to her along the way. Whether it was an orderly, a nurse or a resident with an insight to share, Ms. Gold always stopped and listened to what they had to say.

The interruptions meant it took her longer to get where she was going, but they led her straight to her ultimate goal: Staying closely attuned to the needs of staff and residents while ensuring the best possible care at Maimonides and at the other long-term care sites in our CIUSSS.

Those chats will soon end. Ms. Gold retires on October 31 after 30 years of leadership in long-term care, most recently as Director of the Support Program for the Autonomy of Seniors. Through her dedication to quality care, she helped transform the lives of countless seniors.

“These are people who have worked their whole life and contributed to society; they deserve to be well-treated at the end of their lives,” says Ms. Gold. “I’ve always believed that people should be treated the way you yourself would want to be treated. I’ve always asked myself: If this were me, what would I want the decision to be?”

A rare woman in senior managerial ranks when she became Maimonides’s Executive Director in 1991, Ms. Gold remained focused on her objectives and, by her own admission, “wouldn’t take no for an answer.” In 2000, for example, she was adamant that long-term care homes needed electric beds similar to those in hospitals, to make it easier for staff to tend to the residents. She found a Quebec-made model but it didn’t have formal approval from the province.

“We encountered resistance because, legally, we weren’t allowed to buy the bed. So we pursued it to the top,” she recalls. After a relentless effort, she succeeded in getting the Bureau de normalisation du Québec to change the provincial regulations, and the bed was accepted—and used not just at Maimonides, but across the province.

“It’s just in my character,” Ms. Gold says. “If I believe in something, I’m going to try.”

1991: At age 37, becomes Executive Director of Maimonides Geriatric Centre after working for a decade in various capacities at the Jewish General Hospital.

1993: Takes on supervision of 12 foster homes after the Accredited Foster Home program is transferred to Maimonides.

2005: Takes on additional responsibility by becoming Executive Director of Jewish Eldercare Centre.

2009: Becomes the first Canadian to be named Board Chair of the Association of Jewish Aging Services, a North American group.

2010: Helps secure the largest gift in the history of Maimonides as it celebrates its 100th anniversary. The Centre is renamed Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre.

2011: Receives an award from the Quebec Association of Health and Social Service Establishments, in honour of an Executive Director who demonstrates exceptional leadership. Recognized as the architect behind a geriatric centre of excellence and for its role in shaping the way geriatric care is provided locally, nationally and internationally.

2013: Is instrumental in getting Donald Berman Maimonides and Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare to become the first long-term care centres in North America to receive gold designation from Planetree, an international organization focused on patient-centred health care.

2015: Appointed Director of the Support Program for the Autonomy of Seniors in the newly created CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. Responsibilities expand to seven long-term care sites as well as to home care across the network.

2019: Receives the Dr. Herbert Shore Award from the Association of Jewish Aging Services, given to an outstanding executive professional who best exemplifies the goals and ideals of the organization.

2020: Oversees a pilot project at Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre to administer the first vaccinations in Quebec against COVID-19.

The attitude earned Ms. Gold a series of prestigious awards over the years and helped turn Maimonides into a leader in geriatric care and a model in its field.

“She put Maimonides on the map,” says Carrie Bogante, who worked alongside Ms. Gold and is now Director of Finance for our CIUSSS. “Throughout the years, Maimonides has been recognized as one of the best in Quebec and certainly one of the tops in Canada. When the Ministry wanted to showcase a successful long-term care residence, they came knocking on Barbra’s door. They often sent foreign dignitaries to see Maimonides and Jewish Eldercare.”

“These are people who have worked their whole life and contributed to society; they deserve to be well-treated at the end of their lives.”

A key to Ms. Gold’s success came from the way she built relationships with staff at all levels. She surrounded herself with talented managers, some of whom, like Ms. Bogante and CIUSSS Nursing Director Lucie Tremblay, went on to senior roles in our CIUSSS.

“I wasn’t intimidated by people who might be smarter than me or know more than me,” Ms. Gold explains. “I was always ready to learn.”

She mentored employees and listened to their concerns, holding regular group meetings over tea and cookies, where staff could share what was on their minds.

“Barbra has always demonstrated exceptional respect toward employees. She believes in people’s potential,” says Ms. Tremblay, adding that Ms. Gold encouraged staff through training and additional responsibilities, often placing herself in the background to let those around her take centre stage.

“It’s just in my character. If I believe in something, I’m going to try.”

“She knew how to mobilize people, so that they could become a better version of themselves,” Ms. Tremblay says. “She’s a leader who has become my friend, and she is completely inspiring.”

Part of Ms. Gold’s legacy is seen in upgraded showers, elevators, relaxation rooms and other amenities. But perhaps her most enduring impact is giving seniors in long-term care the chance to live their final years in dignity, an issue that was pushed to the forefront nationally during the COVID-19 pandemic—a period Ms. Gold describes as the most difficult of her career.

She has always been driven by the belief that people in long-term care deserved the same quality of services as those in acute-care hospitals, she says. “When I started out, long-term care was a poor cousin, and I didn’t think it deserved to be. These people are entitled to the best.”

As she turns the key on her door, she says her feelings are bittersweet. She still loves her job, but feels it’s important to give others “the opportunity to take over and bring their own touch.”

She departs with the conviction that she’s made a difference. “I think I’m leaving the healthcare system in long-term care in a better place than where I found it.”

Watch as friends and fellow leaders from around the CIUSSS reflect on what Barbra means to them and the community.