Updated: September 2020
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Dr. Michael Conrad Kovacs, MD Medical Director for SMHC
Dr Kovacs, 1921 to 2020. He was 99 years of age, a compassionate psychiatrist with a listening heart, an avid gardener, a keen chess player, an astute participant in the financial markets, a determined poker player who was affectionately known to his family as "French". He served with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corp during the Second World War. He rarely spoke of his war time experience, yet the will, strength, and determination he evidenced to endure the hardships of the Italian Campaign and the horrors of war equipped him well for the balance of his life. He worked tirelessly as an advocate in mental health. A lifetime in mental health requires a heart of compassion, much courage and an ability to encounter the human condition in a multiplicity of forms. He served as Medical Director of the Selkirk Mental Health Centre for years and played a pivotal role in guiding the Hospital in its fundamental reforms. He championed a comprehensive Bill of Rights for patients which codified, for example, the right to privacy within a patient's room, the ability to keep and display personal property, the right to communicate with people outside the Centre, and the right to exercise their vote and to have accessible polling stations during Federal and Provincial elections. As the Hospital transitioned to community care he authored the following plaque on the original building with bars on the window. It read in part: "This building was erected in 1886. It does not reflect current concepts in the care and treatment of the mentally ill…This relic of the past is destined to be demolished. May it be soon. May the crushing blows of the demolition hammer be symbolic of a victory for the rights of our mentally ill to be cared for and treated in settings commensurate with their needs." Dr Kovacs travelled to Victoria for a richly deserved retirement but he soon found himself (six weeks after the arrival) working at the Victoria Mental Health Centre (Out Patient) and the Swift Street Medical Clinic. On Monday mornings he volunteered and attended to the homeless population on downtown Victoria streets. Dr Kovacs discontinued his medical endeavours at age 88 and enjoyed his actual retirement working in his garden in Victoria. Dr Kovacs died May 9th, 2020.