Reassuring absence of apathy

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Two months ago, the Jamieson clan moved up the line, from the southern charms of Invercargill to Oamaru, to take on the new challenge of working for your community hospital.

Needless to say, thorough due diligence was done prior to making the move. We bought a new home in Oamaru after looking for two days, and settled our Oamaru-based children into a local school.

One of the first things we noticed was that rain is hard to find (in Invercargill it came at you sideways), and the culture and cultures in our new hometown are vibrant and something to celebrate. Another thing that struck us was that everyone we talked to had an opinion about Oamaru Hospital – granted not always positive!

My first thought was back to that due diligence – did I do my own checking before signing up?

Quickly this was dispelled by the wake-up call that no, Waitaki District Health Services Ltd, not unlike the small New Zealand mutual bank I came from, is a community institution.

People truly care about our hospital, its proud history, where it has been and where is it going in the future.

The worst thing I could have encountered would have been community indifference and apathy, remembering Elie Wiesel’s admonition that “the opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference”.

So what are our priorities? Here are the ravings of a new boy, 55 days into my role:

1. Our organisation is about people. A happy team goes a long way to ensuring we deliver the best outcomes to our community and our patients.

2. World-class clinicians (doctors/nurses) who understand the specific health needs of our community. This means sharing the love and attracting key staff to the magic Waitaki community and all it has to offer – news on new docs joining shortly.

3. Better understanding the healthcare needs of our diverse community, so we make sure our healthcare addresses Waitaki’s specific needs. Science and data plays a role here, but most importantly it is getting out in the community, listening, asking questions and learning.

4. Plan now. Rural/community hospitals and healthcare are changing, and will change significantly over the next five to 10 years. Technology such as telehealth (virtual) combined with 5G will open up exciting opportunities for us all.

Next month, I’ll update you on what services we provide now and on the people joining us, and write about how rural hospitals may change in the future.

  • Phil Jamieson is the new chief executive of Waitaki District Health Services Ltd.