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Career ‘an honour’ for NH CFO

Posted Jun 4th, 2024

We are Niagara Health is a series of stories that celebrates the incredible people working and volunteering in our organization and how they make a difference in the lives of patients and coworkers every day.

After 33 years with Niagara Health, Angela Zangari looks forward to more time with her family in the months and years ahead. 

When Angela Zangari started her career as a budget analyst for Niagara Health, the spreadsheets she worked with were massive and her office was tiny.

Her workspace was so small, Zangari had to turn sideways to get through the door.

“I think it was actually a janitor’s closet at one time,” Zangari says. “It could barely fit a desk, but it was my office.”

In the 33 years Zangari has been with the organization, the spreadsheets have shrunk to fit a computer screen and the offices she called her own have gotten larger, so she could walk through the door and into the day’s work head-on.

Her roles and titles have changed in that time, too. Last Friday, that happen again when Angela Zangari, Executive Vice-President, Finance, Redevelopment and Facilities, and Chief Financial Officer became Angela Zangari, Retiree.

She looks forward to more time with her family, including grandson Owen, her mother Carlina and husband Tony, in the months and years ahead. Dividing her time between Niagara and her ancestral Italy is also on her new to-do list.

“You just know when it’s time to move on,” Zangari says. “It’s hard. I’m going to miss the people the most, the team. I made them promise they will still keep in touch.”

Those are relationships that may not have come to be if Zangari stuck to her original plan when she started with Niagara Health in 1991 as a newly minted Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).

She was “thrilled to work at the hospital” but figured she’d stay only a couple of years, then trade the public sector for private industry.

However, it was impossible to be bored or fall into much of a routine in those early years. Change happened nearly from Day 1 with the introduction of those spreadsheet-shrinking computers, establishing the Meditech healthcare information system, and the massive restructuring in the late 1990s that led to the amalgamation of local hospitals into one health system.

Angela Zangari’s advice for those starting their careers:

“Take some time to think and learn. Really learn, listen, get to know people and don’t assume. Sometimes it’s in our nature to think we know everything and that we’re going to go in and fix things. But pause. Be respectful of one another and don’t be afraid to lean on your colleagues. You can’t do everything on your own, even if you think you can.”

A restructuring commission at the time called for three sites in Niagara. Those involved in the process got it to eight sites to start.

Zangari, then the director of finance, witnessed court battles and public protests as communities resisted the changes. In 2005, the restructuring was largely complete when Niagara Health was officially established and took over the former Hotel Dieu Hospital on Ontario Street in St. Catharines while Hotel Dieu took over the Shaver Rehabilitation Hospital on Glenridge Avenue.

“I’ve been here 33 years but it’s always been something different,” Zangari says. “I would never change it. As tumultuous and difficult as it was, I’d never get this education anywhere else and I’m not someone who would be happy doing the same thing all the time.”

The challenges would keep coming through the Hospital Improvement Plan and changes to services in Fort Erie and Port Colborne, the closing of St. Catharines General and moving to the new Marotta Family Hospital in St. Catharines in 2013.

Zangari stayed long enough to see the new South Niagara Hospital start to take shape with construction of the superstructure moving above ground this month.

Some of the public’s concerns about shifting to a three-site model when the idea was first mentioned more than a decade ago remain the same today as Niagara Health moves toward that reality. So, too, does Zangari’s optimism about the future of healthcare in Niagara.

“I get people are nervous about it. I appreciate that, being in this system. But once they know and see it, they will know it was done in their best interests, and it will make things better,” she says. “I believe we shouldn’t be leaving Niagara for things we can get here, like cancer care, cardiac and stroke care.”

While she isn’t on the frontlines of healthcare, Zangari’s leadership has helped shape the high-quality care that Niagara Health has become known for providing.

It’s been a privilege, she says.

“Just to see everything that we’ve been through and then to build the brand-new St. Catharines Hospital, and having a role to play in that – I was just so honoured to do that,” she says. “I wasn’t a clinician, so I wasn’t taking care of people directly or trying to heal them or being with them at their most vulnerable time. I just wanted to give back and I was honoured to be there and be part of it all.”

Niagara Health System