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Rural Northwest Health is entering an exciting new era of development after the announcement of major changes at the very top.

Award-winning CEO Catherine Morley has resigned to further her career by taking charge of Wimmera Health Care Group. Her appointment comes immediately after she was inducted into Victoria’s Honour Roll for Women for the public sector.

Newly appointed Rural Northwest Health board chair Sally Gebert was dealing with mixed emotions after taking the reins a month earlier from long-serving chair Leo Casey. Mrs Gebert said it was a sad occasion but an opportunistic one as well.

“It’s sad to see Catherine leave but she has left us in the strongest position possible to appoint the best suitor,” Mrs Gebert said.

“We are after all, Victoria’s small health service of the year twice running and now with five star accreditation,” she said.

“We are very proud of what Catherine has achieved not only personally but for our health service and our community.

“She leaves us in a strong position financially and the new model of care is up and running successfully.”

Mrs Gebert said her board was looking forward to the challenge of appointing a suitable replacement.

“We are looking to recruit a CEO who will not only be able to maintain what we have but build on our strong position and and look to the future,” she said.

“The challenge is there but we are already up and running with it.”

Ms Morley ‘parachuted’ into Warracknabeal in January, 2010, to rescue a health service that had been in torment from the merger of three hospitals and two aged care homes in three communities.

A series of major upheavals such as the loss of maternity services and theatre had left a sour taste with staff members and had alienated a disgruntled community. She set about firstly rebuilding team morale by introducing the FISH principles of Be There, Play, Choose Your Attitude and Make Someone’s Day.

After canvassing the principles through a series of training programs and team events, a shift in culture had become noticeable.

Ms Morley then began a campaign of involving the community in the future of their health service. The introduction of the Community Action Research Group was the major catalyst but there was more to follow.

She invited community members to attend regular meetings to keep them at the forefront of new programs and changes. She included community members in decision-making and constantly sought advice on how services could be improved.

Mrs Gebert said community engagement was important to the board and would be a primary focus with appointing a new CEO.

“Catherine’s passion is improving the rural health and wellbeing of our community and an opportunity has arisen that allows her to spread her wings and support the Wimmera Southern Mallee region to improve their health and wellbeing,” she said.

“We support her decision and we believe the most positive result for Rural Northwest Health is it will strengthen our relationship with Wimmera Healthcare Group through the Wimmera Southern Mallee Health Alliance.”

Ms Morley will finish with Rural Northwest Health early next month. Support Services manager Jo Martin will be acting CEO.

* Ms Morley was one of six women in the public sector to win a State Government scholarship after she was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women at a ceremony in Melbourne last week.

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