The at-times controversial chief executive of the Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD), Chris Crawford, has announced he will retire at the end of his current five-year term in December.
Mr Crawford, who was head of the area health service before it morphed into a health district five years ago, said he had told the board well ahead of time to allow the recruitment process for a replacement to begin.
He said he was pleased to have overseen the completion of Grafton Base Hospital’s (GBH) stage one and two, together with the construction of Yamba Community Health Centre and Pottsville HealthOne.
Lismore Base Hospital statge 3 and Byron Central Hospital were well advanced, he added.
‘NNSW LHD is well positioned for the future with the following funded projects in the pipeline: The Tweed Hospital stage 4a, GBH Ambulatory Care Centre, Ballina Hospital operating theatre medical imaging upgrade, Bonalbo Multipurpose Service and the Coraki HealthOne Centre.’
But Mr Crawford’s time at the helm has often been controversial, with communities outraged by some of his decisions including the closure of Coraki and Bonalbo hospitals, the attempted removal of a night-time doctor service from Mullumbimby Hospital and, most recently, the removal of birthing services from Murwillumbah Hospital.
As well, his tenure has been dogged by shortages of nurses and allied health professionals at Lismore and Tweed hospitals, with claims from staff that management purposefully delayed recruitment to staunch budgetary holes.
But in a statement announcing his retirement, Mr Crawford had only praise for the people he worked with.
‘It has been a privilege to lead such a talented and dedicated group of clinicians and staff over the past 15 years. I thank them for the support I have received and for their contributions to enhancing the provision of north coast health services,’ he said.
‘Also I would like to acknowledge the tremendous support I have received from two boards and from the NNSW LHD executive,’ Mr Crawford said.