Queensland snaps up disappointed Whelan
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.