Hospital chief praised for 17-year stint

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Former Oamaru Hospital chief executive Robert Gonzales did a fine job leading the hospital through some of its most “tumultuous” times and deserves praise for his long tenure, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher says.

Last Friday, Waitaki District Health Services chairman Chris Swann announced Mr Gonzales had resigned from the position he had held for 17 years, effective immediately.

No reason for his sudden resignation was given.

In a statement, Mr Swann said Mr Gonzales had played a “vital role” in extending the hospital’s services, which included a surgical bus service; installation of the hospital’s CT scanner and digital radiology systems; introduction of it’s health warrant of fitness service; patient transfer van service; outpatients video-conference clinic and the construction of the hospital’s’s aged-care service wing, Takaro Lodge.

The wing closed in August and its patients relocated to Observatory Retirement Village.

“Robert’s dedication, loyalty and advocacy for Waitaki’s health services were exemplary and we sincerely wish him the very best for the future,” Mr Swann said.

Mr Gonzales said working for the hospital had been a “24/7 job”.

“I am looking forward to having a bit of a break after 17 years and pursue personal interests while deciding on my next step.”

He declined to comment further when contacted by the Oamaru Mail.

Mr Kircher expressed surprise at the announcement and praised Mr Gonzales for his efforts over his long tenure.

“I certainly thank him for his years of service as the hospital has gone from what was a young institution after it had moved from up on the hill to its current location to where it is now, as it’s going through another change at the moment with the model of care review,” Mr Kircher said.

“It’s been an interesting time. He helped take what was quite a changed service from what it had been to what we’ve got now.

“From the council perspective, we are a bit unique in the fact that we own the company that owns the hospital. We take a keen interest in the services there and I think Robert and the board have put us in a position where we should be retaining the main services and in some cases actually increasing services as we go through this change.

“This last year and a-half has been a tumultuous time and he’s been right in the midst of all of that.”

Former Friends of Oamaru Hospital secretary Pat Avis, who worked closely with Mr Gonzales until the group was disestablished in June 2017, said he “couldn’t have been more helpful”.

“He was always very supportive of the group and was obviously very disappointed when we decided to disband,” Mrs Avis said.

Oamaru Hospital is owned by Waitaki District Health Services, a Waitaki District Council-controlled organisation.