Retiring health executive had major impact on sector
While most locals will remember Sharon Wards, until last month CEO of the Tararua Health Group, as the woman who created Dannevirke’s Community Hospital, it was clear at her farewell on Tuesday that Sharon’s impact on the health sector was much wider.
Representatives from many health groups swelled the group of locals to more than 40 to record their thanks and describe how they were influenced by Sharon’s infectious enthusiasm, drive, wisdom, loud laugh and commitment in promoting rural health.
THG Board director Murray Pringle summed up Sharon’s actions in bringing about the THG as “trail blazing, entrepreneurial stuff,” attributing her success to her compassion for people, passion for the health sector and dedication to staff, customers and stake holders.
Mark Wills, a new partner in the THG who worked with Sharon as the organisation developed, described her as “an awesome flag-bearer of the THG as its CEO”. He said he was helping take the organisation on its next step “but it was already in great heart”.
Doctors Brian Quick, Tom Gibson and Sam Wilson all spoke about the creation of the THG. Brian said it was an enjoyable adventure and left a legacy.
“It is a sign of doing something well that you can walk away and it continues on without you,” Tom said.
Mark Eager, CEO of the Surgical Bus described the unique welcome it received when it first arrived in Dannevirke and the provision of Sharon’s culinary expertise called Snackadoodles.
Bruce Stewart and Chiquita Hansen of the Mid Central Health PHO spoke of the THG as a model for other groups to follow in promoting integrated primary health care.
They presented Sharon with a heartshaped pounamu to reflect her love of people, similar to the gift presented to Sharon by her staff at their farewell June 27.
Michelle Thompson of the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa NZ thanked Sharon for “being a trooper for decades trying to educate those in the city to the health needs of rural areas”.
Sharon in reply said she found the farewell experience “very humbling”.
She said being the boss of more than 400 people in her time was very rewarding.
She told the group that although the job has had huge challenges, especially in the last six months.
“There have been a heck of a lot more good times than bad.”
She said she was heartened by the comments from speakers about her impact nationally in the health sector.
“Sometimes you feel you are a small pebble in a big pond,” she said.
She thanked her colleagues, singling out each with a description of how they had helped her over 21 years.
“Every person has uniqueness,” she said. “They have had a huge impact on me.”
Mayor Tracey Collis thanked Sharon saying her speech “had made everyone feel special”.
Sharon is looking for new opportunities which she hopes will involve rural communities, health and well-being.
She quoted a motto which has guided her thinking over her career: “One day? Or Day one?”
Mark Wills, new partner in the Tararua Health Group, presents departing CEO Sharon Wards with a bouquet.
Dr Brian Quick speaks about the journey creating the THG.
Bruce Stewart, chairman of the Mid Central Health Board, presents Sharon Wards with a pounamu.
Sharon wearing both pounamu gifts, reflects on her 21 years of service.
Sharon was piped into the venue at the Tararua Business Hub.