Ken Whelan is the new CEO for the new Wide Bay Health Service District.
Ken Whelan is the new CEO for the new Wide Bay Health Service District. Mike Knott

New health CEO set for hard work

KEN Whelan is a man who sticks to his guns.

The recently appointed chief executive officer of the new Wide Bay Health Service District talks the talk about patient care, but his recent history shows he is able to walk the walk.

In August, Mr Whelan resigned from his post as chief executive of Wellington's Capital and Coast District Health Board.

A leaked email he had sent to staff gave his reasons.

Mr Whelan quit because he felt there was no room for further budget cuts despite pressure from the government.

The former nurse will officially fill the CEO position on Monday, but has been in Bundaberg for about a week learning about the area.

“I won't be a part of an organisation that wants to reduce services over and above what is considered to be efficient for patient care,” he said about his resignation. “I think that shows that I'm willing to walk what I say.”

Mr Whelan, who has been in health care management for 30 years, had been in Wellington for just two years.

Prior to that, he was the district manager of the Townsville Health Service District from 2002 to 2008.

“The reason I left at the time was I'd been in Townsville for almost six years and felt the best thing for any service district is to get fresh ideas in to ensure the best health care is being provided,” he said.

In 2005, Mr Whelan gave evidence about his experiences in Townsville as a part of the Bundaberg Hospital Commission of Inquiry.

Mr Whelan said he was well aware he was going to face a number of challenges as the district CEO here, including budgetary pressure – a problem he said was not unique to Bundaberg.

“As a health service organisation, I think we have an obligation to spend money wisely to provide the best care we can,” he said.

Mr Whelan said other challenges he faced in the Wide Bay were restoring confidence in the health system, providing services to adequately care for the ageing population, and the administration involved in setting up the new health service district.

He said he hoped to get a number of the senior clinical staff at the hospital involved in management decisions.

“Doctors and nurses are in the best position to make the day-to-day running of the hospital go smoothly because they know what is needed,” he said.

Despite only being in Bundaberg for a short time, Mr Whelan has already started to meet with the city's other health care providers, including GP Links CEO Shane Dawson.

Mr Whelan said he hoped to meet with the Friendly Society Private Hospital and the Bundaberg Mater Hospital in the coming weeks.

Mr Whelan, a keen fisherman, will be joined by his wife, a registered nurse, once his 18-year-old son finishes Year 12 in a couple of weeks.

He said his attitude to providing good health care was similar to his approach to life.

“Treat people how you yourself want to be treated,” he said.

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