Chai Chuah quits as NZ director-general of health

New Zealand's director-general of health Chai Chuah is stepping down from the role after less than three years into his five-year term.

Mr Chuah, who oversaw a controversial restructure of the Ministry of Health that included the removal of the National Health IT Board and its long-term director Graeme Osborne in 2016, spent two years as acting director-general before his official appointment in 2015.

In his time Mr Chuah oversaw the development of the 10-year national health strategy, but there were a few stumbles such as the miscalculation of $38 million in this year's budget. It is no secret that there have been frosty relationships with some of the district health boards.

In a statement, Mr Chuah said he had been considering standing down for some time. Repeating an oft-used slogan, he said it had always been his view “that the health system needs to tackle the challenges ahead as One Team”.

“While significant progress has been made in shifting the system forward it has not been without controversy in the sector,” he said.

“At this time, it is increasingly important for the sector to operate in a unified way if we are to accelerate and further embed the gains we have already made. For that reason I have decided to conclude my time early.”

Mr Chuah was the driving force behind the recruitment of Ann-Marie Cavanagh as the ministry's chief technology and digital services officer, who is charged with guiding the national digital health 'vision' and strategy.

A revised plan for the national electronic health record is due to be submitted to the government this month.

Mr Chuah alluded to the changing nature of the health system in his statement. “I recognise there is a lot more work yet to do, however, I believe the foundations are now in place for the Ministry of Health to take the next step,” he said.

“I am optimistic that the important shift our health system needs to make is already in motion. The context of a digitally empowered citizen and an ageing population will demand and drive change.

“I have been privileged to be the Director-General to start this important system shift. It is now time for me to enable someone else to embed the changes we have made.”

Health Minister David Clark thanked Mr Chuah for his public service and said he respected his decision to finish early.

"I'm advised by the State Services Commissioner that an acting Director-General of Health will be appointed shortly,” Mr Clark said.

"Leadership and relationships are key parts for our health sector's success. I look forward to continuing to work with the health sector's leadership to deliver quality health services, which all New Zealanders deserve and expect.”

Mr Chuah's last day will be February 2, 2018.

Posted in Movers and shakers

Tags: Graeme Osborne, Chai Chuah, NZ Ministry of Health, Ann-Marie Cavanagh

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