Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 7, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada / HIROC was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018):
- HIROC supports local and national charitable organizations each year and launched the HIROCommunity program in recognition of the organization's 25th anniversary -- through the initiative, employees volunteer their time to community projects, such as revitalizing a garden at a hospice and delivering meals on wheels during the winter
- As part of the organization's health benefits plan, employees receive a health spending account of up to $500 per year, allowing them to top up coverage as needed
- HIROC provides maternity leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 90% of salary for up to 17 weeks) and offers a number of flexible work arrangements to help them transition to their new roles as parents
HIROC: Not your run-of-the-mill insurance company
First as a nurse, then as a lawyer, and most recently as a top executive, Catherine Gaulton had worked across Canada, observing the country's public healthcare systems from many different angles before taking on her current role as the CEO of HIROC last year. "I knew the reputation for integrity HIROC has and its commitment to subscribers and patient safety," she says, explaining that the mission of HIROC -- or Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada -- is to partner with the subscribers it insures. "That makes it not your run-of-the-mill insurance company."
As an insurance reciprocal, HIROC is owned and governed by over 700 health-care organizations and professional practice groups (hospitals, associations and midwives, for example). A not-for-profit insurer, it was started in the 1980s when the organizations that would become its subscribers were unable to find reasonably priced insurance in the commercial marketplace. Solid financial results have enabled HIROC to return surplus funds to subscribers every year. The money goes directly back into hospital operations and patient care.
Another priority for HIROC is helping its subscribers to identify and mitigate risks, which, in turn, creates a safer health-care environment for patients. HIROC mines its extensive Canadian claims database to find potential areas for improvement. It provides consultation and advice services, risk identification and management tools, and resources and education. The latter includes an annual risk management conference and reports on everything from cyber risk, including breach of personal health information, to strengthening the safety of obstetric services in Canada.
When Agnese Alati, an insurance industry veteran and claims adjuster, decided it was time for a different career challenge, she moved over to HIROC, attracted by its values, the emphasis on work/life balance, and what she describes as its family-like culture.
"Upper management is so approachable," says Alati. "Managers, VPs and the CEO listen to our ideas, what we have to say. That means a lot." When Gaulton first joined HIROC she met with all its employees "not to talk about work but to get to know us."
Alati enjoys the regular employee appreciation days, an atmosphere that facilitates water-cooler chats, and, she jokes, workplace coffee that's far better than average. Among other benefits, HIROC offers flexible work arrangements to help new parents and the HIROCommunity program through which employees volunteer their time to community projects such as revitalizing a garden at a hospice and delivering meals on wheels during the winter.
In the Toronto office, which has some 90 employees, Alati can walk over and ask her colleagues for assistance any time. "There's a wealth of knowledge here at HIROC that we all share," she says. "We're very specialized in what we do and that's what makes us unique."
This approachability culture extends to relationships with subscribers. "They call us with questions, even just to run something by us. It may not even be a claim," says Alati, adding that HIROC's website has "a wealth of information." Likewise, when the subscribers provide feedback, Alati is happy to transmit it to the right people at HIROC.
This commitment of HIROC staff to providing service to subscribers is something that has long impressed Gaulton, who wants to "leverage that talent even more than it has been to impact patient safety in this country.
"The changes taking place in the health system, what you see impacting the health system, that is what we are responding to," she says.