Rocky road of Queensland Health CIO continues as Ashby returns
Metro South Hospital and Health Service CEO and one-time Queensland Health CIO Richard Ashby has been appointed CEO of eHealth Queensland, with interim CEO Mal Thatcher now “considering his options” for the future.
Dr Ashby is an emergency medicine specialist and has extensive clinical and hospital administration experience, in addition to a long-held interest in health ICT.
He has been involved in the implementation of a Cerner EMR at Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) and Royal Brisbane and Women's for many years, and most recently was chief executive of Metro South, where he oversaw the digital hospital release of the state's integrated electronic medical record (ieMR) at PAH.
The eHealth Queensland CEO is also Queensland Health CIO, a role that has had a very chequered path over the last decade since the departure of Sabrina Walsh – now CIO of the Western Sydney Local Health District – in 2007.
Dr Ashby had a brief stint as interim QH CIO in 2008 following the sacking of then-CIO Paul Summergreene, who was referred to the Crime and Misconduct Commission over his corporate credit card expenses and only lasted a year in the position.
Mr Summergreene was replaced permanently by Ray Brown, who held the role for about six years before the then-Newman government brought in swinging changes to Queensland's Health Services Information Agency (HSIA) in August 2014 that saw Mr Brown leave the public service and the establishment of a new Chief Health Information Office (CHIO) headed by Mater Health's Dr Thatcher.
The government's statewide ICT renewal program led to a massive disruption of HSIA's eHealth roll out but following the election of the Palaszczuk government in 2015, new health minister Cameron Dick merged the HSIA and CHIO into eHealth Queensland, with Dr Thatcher and Paul Carroll leading the new agency temporarily until Colin McCririck took up the permanent job at the end of 2015.
However, Mr McCririck then became entangled in an investigation into nepotism and was stood aside by Queensland Health Director-General Michael Walsh – himself a former head of eHealth NSW – for several months before being cleared. He then accepted an overseas position and Dr Thatcher returned to the agency in an interim position.
Dr Thatcher, who is the co-chair of a project board set up by the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) to manage the implementation of a national system of peer-to-peer secure messaging, revealed Dr Ashby's appointment on his LinkedIn page last week.
He said he would take some time to consider options and said he was excited about the opportunities the future may hold.
Dr Ashby said in a statement that he was excited about taking on the role of CIO/CEO and continuing to shape the eHealth agenda.
“We have a real opportunity to improve patient care through digital innovation – giving clinicians more time to spend with patients and making their jobs as easy and accurate as possible,” Dr Ashby said.
“We’re working towards a fully integrated health system, where staff can access information as quickly and close to the patient as possible.
“It’s about ensuring we have the right foundations in place to embrace future technologies and innovations.”
In addition to his extensive career in emergency medicine and hospital management, Dr Ashby is also a director of the Translational Research Institute and the Australian e-Health Research Centre.
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