Outgoing Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW) Board Chair Jonathan Green has reflected on the highlights and challenges of his 9 years on the NHW Board.
Mr Green attended his final board meeting in June, having completed the maximum number of terms allowed. Ms Alison Maclean has been appointed Interim Board Chair, ahead of a board election in late July.
Having been elected Board Chair in 2018, Mr Green has been at the helm for some of the biggest changes NHW has seen in its 150 year history, including securing funding and commencing a $22.9m redevelopment and the response to COVID-19.
He said he was particularly proud of how NHW had responded to COVID-19.
“COVID-19 brought with it a full deck of pressures and critical risks to our patients, people and organisation,” Mr Green said.
“NHW was on the frontline of the community response. It brought far sharper focus on NHW, and scrutiny on it from community and media.
“Our great strength through it all was, and continues to be, our amazing clinicians and staff and volunteers who rose to the occasion. The day-to-day pressures of PPE, restricted movement, lack of family and visitor access, and the daily directive changes from above, border closures, staff shortage and illness, Code Black, elective surgery cancellations, and lack of rest, took their toll.
“But we still managed to deliver our services well, and also roll out one of the more effective vaccination efforts in the state – incredible.”
While the world of public health has evolved significantly over the past 9 years, Mr Green said a consistent had been the dedication of NHW staff, volunteers and Visiting Medical Officers.
“No matter what was swirling around in the world around it, whenever I stepped into NHW, it was always welcoming, warm and dynamic, and truly the beating heart of our community,” he said.
“That’s not to say things haven’t changed at NHW, because they have. Some of the significant changes have been the very noticeable uptick in patient activity at NHW over my 9 years.
“We are far busier than we have ever been, and that puts a lot of pressure on our people and facilities. In response to that, some of the most pleasing change has been watching our people step up into higher duties, acquire new skills, welcoming new skilled clinicians and other staff to NHW, and being a part of advocating for and eventually constructing the beautiful new buildings and facilities to help us provide the best care possible.”
Mr Green said NHW’s role had changed significantly, expanding from having a sole focus on acute care, to looking at what causes acute illness and community wellness.
“There is a lot of work to do in this space and it will be a joint effort between our hospitals and primary health providers in the community, but it is extremely worthy work for NHW to be engaged in,” he said.
“If we can prevent hospital admissions by improving health generally, the benefits will be self-evident.”
“We have also moved to becoming part of a more integrated health system state-wide, which has changed the way we work and interact with our regional partners.
“Partnership and sharing of resources is now a centrepiece of government policy and NHW will be expected to do its bit.”
NHW has also made changes to become a more inclusive health service.
“As an organisation, we have made great strides to make NHW a welcoming and inclusive environment for all peoples, particularly our First Nations people and LGBTQI+ community,” he said.
“Any steps to make the delivery of health care safer and more welcoming for any person is something to be proud of.”
As for what the future holds, Mr Green said the community should be positive about what can be achieved at NHW, particularly as the hospital’s capacity expands to include new inpatient beds and a larger Emergency Department.
“The future is bright. We have a vibrant culture of inclusion, safety and quality. We recently passed our National Accreditation with flying colours, and it was a highlight of my time as Chair to see how happy and satisfied our hardworking staff were at the exceptional results we achieved,” he said.
“We have a very experienced, skilled and capable Executive leadership team headed up by our CEO Libby Fifis, and we have our wonderful people.
“Our redevelopment is almost complete, which will add to our ability to provide the best possible care closer to home.”
Mr Green said being a Director and eventual Chair of the Board has been an enormous honour.
“NHW has been a significant part of my life since I was a child,” he said.
“I grew up in a house up the road in Green Street, and have watched firsthand as the organisation has changed. I have been a patient here over the years, as have my friends and family. I have come to say my final goodbyes to people here. My daughter was born here.
“In the past 9 years, it has become an even bigger part of my life.
“I will miss being involved very much, but as a community member I look forward to contributing in other ways in the future.”