Hay Riverite to take over medical supply business

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Doug Swallow, left, and Theresa Swallow say they are looking forward to retirement when James Hiebert, MSS' new owner, takes over.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Doug Swallow, left, and Theresa Swallow say they are looking forward to retirement when James Hiebert, MSS’ new owner, takes over.

A familiar face is taking over community institution Medical Surgical Supply Ltd. and looking to expand.

James Hiebert, owner of South Texas Solar Systems Inc. and Canadian-based Endless Green Energy Inc., has returned to pick up the reins of the medical supply company. While he said the core of the business will remain in health products, he is also planning to eventually expand into clinical and treatment services.

“We would need to partner with other groups,” Hiebert told The Hub. “I’m not the one who is knowledgeable about that, so we need partners, but we want to look at being involved in on-the-land treatment, but paired with clinical services. It’s the mesh of the two that’s so important, especially here in the North.”

Medical Surgical Supply was incorporated 1991 and has been serving the North ever since. Although health care supplies are the foundation of the business, the company also has industrial clients for its safety gear, as well as walk-in customers for it’s outdoor gear and outfitter section.

Current owners Doug Swallow and Bruce Sutherland are looking forward to moving onto new opportunities and challenges, but not for a few years. Part of the deal with Hiebert – finalized Dec. 31 – was that the former owners would stay on for three years to ease the transition.

“The first thing you realize when you start a business is that you don’t know anything,” said Hiebert. “So I made sure I would be surrounded by people who are smarter than me.”

Swallow said that although they were early in the transition, the process is going smoothly so far. He and his wife, Theresa Swallow are looking forward to retirement.

“We’re going to be around for the next three years, and probably we’ll be around for relief after that,” he said.

Sutherland, on the other hand, said he’s too young for retirement, but is looking forward to sticking around with the company as either a consultant or for special products. He too, however, is confident in the new management team.

“After you take 25 years to build a company, you want to see the next people take over and take it to the next level,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got some work to do, but I’m quite happy with the transition and quite happy with the people doing the transitioning.”

Hiebert said he was just as pleased to have Sutherland and the Swallows stay on and was looking forward to learning all he could from them. Then, he plans to expand into other markets like Yellowknife, as well as partnering with other organizations to help deliver the care he feels the North needs.

“We need a rehab facility in the North and it needs to be run by the community,” he said. “It has to be a blend of both western and traditional medicine and it has to fit the North.”

For now, however, Hiebert said he’s just happy to be home. Raised in Hay River, he said he will be continuing to split time between here and Texas while continuing to run his other business, eventually adding solar power options to the MSS lineup.

“Hopefully, this business isn’t my last, and hopefully I can do lots of different things in lots of different places,” he said.

Hiebert said he thinks people should always be challenging themselves and that he has applied this philosophy to everything he’s done. He also said there is definitely room and appetite for local innovation in many sectors, hence his new foray into the medical field.

“The cost of health care in the North is so high, and it really does affect everyone here. I want to make things more affordable for everyone, really try to bring those costs down,” he said. “The enthusiasm is there for a lot of change, and we want to be a part of that.”

-Sarah Ladik