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 has been acting in the role since Ros McRae stepped down in November last year, and has now signed a three-year contract to become the new CEO.
Mr Packard starts his tenure at an important time for the Whyalla Hospital, with a $3.6 million expansion of the local renal dyalisis unit nearing completion and an $11m upgrade of the accident and emergency department on the horizon.
The safety of nurses at the hospital also continues to be a pressing issue for the LHN, with both Member for Giles Eddie Hughes and the Whyalla Residents and Ratepayers Association having called for further action to protect nursing staff.
Mr Packard said a full security review of the hospital was planned for the near future, but due to COVID-19 restrictions the interstate company scheduled to carry out the review had been unable to travel to Whyalla.
"Security will be paramount in the upgrade to the upgrade of the emergency department in two years time," he said.
"We will be changing how people access and enter the department along with alarm and camera changes."
Unfortunately federal government funding for the upgrade does not release until 2022, making major security changes a distant reality.
Another significant challenge for Mr Packard and the LHN will be maintaining safety measures as coronavirus restrictions ease to prevent another break-out locally.
On Monday the state government moved into Stage 3 of its Roadmap for Easing COVID-19 Restrictions, which reduces social distancing requirements within venues to one person per two square metres.
Mr Packard said the Whyalla COVID-19 Testing Clinic was seeing higher numbers getting tested than ever before.
"We're mindful that COVID is still out there but we are confident that things are well controlled in South Australia," he said.
Looking further than Whyalla, Mr Packard has a number of objectives he would like to carry out during his time as CEO, including:
- Developing the strategic direction of the FUNLHN
- Making mental health and aboriginal health services more accessible in remote communities
- Implementing the FUNLHN service plans
- Changing how hospital workforces are managed
- Attracting more specialists to regional areas
- Upskilling workforces and retaining skilled workers
- Collaborating with large companies such as BHP
- Using technology to make meetings more accesible
Mr Packard hopes to have the Whyalla Hospital's new dyalsis unit completed by the end of the year