Health chief outlines new agency plan

Flinders and Upper North Local Health (FUNLHN) Network's new chief executive Craig Packard signs a three-year contract.

Flinders and Upper North Local Health (FUNLHN) Network's new chief executive Craig Packard signs a three-year contract.

Making hospital services more accessible in rural areas, building workforce capacity and developing partnerships with more agencies is all part of the vision of the Flinders and Upper North Local Health (FUNLHN) Network's new chief executive.

Craig Packard, who is pictured at right, has been acting in the role since Ros McRae stepped down in November last year.

He has now signed a three-year contract to become the new CEO. Mr Packard starts his tenure at an important time for the Port Augusta Hospital, with implementation of the Network's newly released health service plan.

Mr Packard said expanding the medical workforce is a key priority.

"The doctor shortage has made it difficult for us to ensure there are doctors in Whyalla and Port Augusta. COVID hasn't helped that," he said.

"We use a lot of locum doctors, many of them from interstate and the doctor shortage has been further exacerbated by the fact that many of those doctors cant get here. The biggest thing for me, overarching everything is getting our models right for our medical services.

"It's not just about doctors - it's also how you can compliment a lot of those medical services with specialist nursing and allied health. It's the whole clinical workforce."

A long-term strategy includes developing and training doctors within the Far North region.

"Rather than trying to bring a doctor hear from interstate or wherever and have them stay for weeks or months, actually to have the train and have placements and have a development pathway in our region itself.," he said.

"Ideally that means to have rural generalists doctors develop. Rural generalists can specialise in a range of areas. They can be more utilized."

A more immediate challenge for Mr Packard will be maintaining safety measures as coronavirus restrictions ease.

"The last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been challenging for everyone, and I would like to thank all our staff for their continued commitment, professionalism and expertise in keeping our community safe during this time," he said.

"I plan to work closely with the Board and our staff over the coming months to ensure that the health services we provide to the local community meet their needs for both and now into the future."