The newly appointed chairman of the Southern NSW Local Health District won’t venture an opinion on the organisation’s tumult at this stage.
But Dr Allan Hawke says one of his key tasks is to fully understand the circumstances that led to CEO Janet Compton’s departure last week.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard dumped her from the role after just 16 months on Thursday, along with Board chairman Jenny Symons. He did not offer a reason but it’s understood the Minister and several MPs were unhappy with her management of Bega Hospital and Goulburn’s Bourke Street Health Service. Sources have also told The Post of a high executive staff and senior clinician turnover during her time.
Dr Hawke, who has a long career in public administration and in the private sector, was confirmed as the new chairman on Thursday.
“This is a time for a new beginning, with a new chair and CEO and I want to hear from the Board and the acting CEO (Julie Mooney) what needs to be done. I have said to Julie, ‘let’s get down on paper the key issues and the timeframe to address them’,” he said.
Dr Hawke said dealing with the recommendations from an independent review into Bega Hospital and pinning down timeframes and responsibilities for their implementation, was a priority.
Similarly, he is keen to see the results of a Statewide government initiated internal staff survey, titled ‘People Matter,’ due by the end of the year.
Regarding Goulburn Base Hospital’s redevelopment, Dr Hawke said he wanted to talk to board member Geoff Kettle about an effective community engagement strategy. Mr Kettle has raised this issue publicly.
“These infrastructure projects are run from outside the Health District (by Infrastructure NSW) and I’ve asked our communications manager to discuss with them whether it’s the best way in terms of getting information out there to the public,” he said.
He is gradually meeting with board members to understand the “challenges for the Board and Health District.” Dr Hawke was buoyed by the fact they came from right across the District and held diverse experience. On Monday he attended his first executive meeting with Ms Mooney.
Dr Hawke will also have a briefing with the secretary of NSW Health in coming weeks. In addition, he plans to meet with council leaders and MPs across the Health District in ensuing months.
Asked what he could bring to the role, Dr Hawke said as a former chairman of many government and private sector boards he well understood the chair’s role and that of the executive.
He said that recruiting a new CEO was a priority, “the sooner, the better,” in his view. The Board next meets in Goulburn on September 1.
Dr Allan Hawke comes to his new role with a wealth of experience but also well-formed links to the region.
His father, Harold, a World War Two veteran, was born in Goulburn. Before the conflict he was a printing machinist who published The Government Gazette, declaring Australia was at war. Afterward, he had a long involvement with the Queanbeyan RSL Sub Branch and was an alderman in that city.
Dr Hawke’s grandfather was also a steam train driver in Goulburn and his mother is related to the Bush family here. Dr Hawke himself was born in Canberra but has lived most of his life in Queanbeyan.
He and his wife spent some time in New Zealand before returning to Melbourne and then Canberra. The Health District’s acting CEO, Julie Mooney, started her career as a nurse at Kenmore Hospital and lives on a Goulburn district farm.
She was formerly the executive director of nursing and midwifery and has also acted in the role of executive director clinical operations.
Dr Hawke said Ms Mooney was also currently heading up a mental health review for the State Government, which he described as “a feather in her cap” and a testament to the quality of staff within the Health District.
On Monday, Ms Mooney issued a statement saying despite the leadership change, it was “business as usual,” with all services continuing as normal.
“We’re looking forward to building on the positive results at South East Regional Hospital in Bega, as we continue to implement the recommendations of the Reid Review,” she said.
“We’ve already seen a real shift in the culture, through listening and engaging with staff and clinicians with many excited about the new direction.
“We’ll also be engaging again with the local Goulburn community with the next stage of the hospital redevelopment. Schematic designs are being worked on, with the aim of holding community consultation meetings in the final quarter of this year to give everyone a clearer picture of what’s being delivered.”