Queens­land snaps up dis­ap­pointed Whe­lan

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By JIM CHIPP

The for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive of Welling­ton’s health board, who quit rather rather than slash ser­vices fur­ther, has taken charge of a Queens­land health district.

What is more, he has been given the task of mod­el­ling the new ser­vice on New Zealand’s.

Less than two months af­ter leav­ing Cap­i­tal & Coast District Health Board, Ken Whe­lan is head­ing the newly es­tab­lished Wide Bay Health Ser­vice District, based in Bund­aberg.

Speak­ing from Queens­land, Mr Whe­lan said he had let the Aus­tralian health au­thor­i­ties know he would not be con­tin­u­ing in Welling­ton and would be in­ter­ested if some­thing came up.

He has a 12-month tem­po­rary con­tract to set up the Wide Bay Health Ser­vice District, af­ter which his job will be ad­ver­tised. He said he planned to ap­ply for the per­ma­nent po­si­tion.

‘‘ [ The tem­po­rary con­tract] gives me head space at the same time.’’

Aus­tralia’s govern­ment ap­pears to be re­form­ing its pub­lic health sys­tem on the lines of the New Zealand model, he said.

‘‘ The com­mon­wealth re­form the Govern­ment has come up with, go­ing to a board and de­vo­lu­tion out to com­mu­ni­ties, is al­most an area health board.

‘‘ Well, I can add some value to that be­cause I have worked in that sys­tem.’’

New Zealand’s pub­lic health statis­tics have im­proved markedly with a shift in em­pha­sis to­wards pri­mary care and pre­ven­tion and the in­tro­duc­tion of pri­mary health or­gan­i­sa­tions, he said.

‘‘One of the prob­lems we have had his­tor­i­cally [in Aus­tralia] is that hos­pi­tals tended to be funded through the states, and pri­mary care is pri­vate or by the fed­eral govern­ment.’’

The re­forms are meant to bet­ter in­te­grate the work of doc­tors, nurses and other pri­mary health­care pro­fes­sion­als in the com­mu­nity with hos­pi­tal ser­vices.

‘‘ Po­ten­tially, that’s a huge health gain. Oth­er­wise you just build lots and lots of hos­pi­tals.’’

Mr Whe­lan said there were more sim­i­lar­i­ties than dif­fer­ences in health­care in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, though Aus­tralia or­gan­ised hos­pi­tals very well.

‘‘To be hon­est, a hos­pi­tal is a hos­pi­tal is a hos­pi­tal.

‘‘The is­sues are age­ing pop­u­la­tion and chronic dis­eases.’’

Mr Whe­lan said he had en­joyed Queens­land’s warmer weather.

‘‘I was in Welling­ton for two years,’’ he said. ‘‘I did find that a chal­lenge, keep­ing the work-life bal­ance.

‘‘The life­style was im­por­tant: stuff I like do­ing ev­ery day – swim­ming, walk­ing, fish­ing and golf.’’

His wife will join him in Queens­land once the school year is over, but their two chil­dren, aged 21 and 18, might not.

‘‘ They love Welling­ton,’’ he said. ‘‘It was a case of the par­ents leav­ing home.’’

Head­hunted: For­mer Cap­i­tal & Coast chief ex­ec­u­tive Ken Whe­lan.

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