Site Loader

In an Emergency, Call '000'

21 Barclay Street, Heywood, VIC, 3304


A NEW chairwoman, two new board directors and the retirement of longstanding members are among the changes at Heywood Rural Health.

Karyn Cook was elected chairwoman at a meeting on 19th July following the retirement of Phil Saunders.

Mr Saunders has served the maximum nine years on the board so had to step down, while Deb Loraine (appointed 2016) and Jacki Price (appointed 2019) also retired.

Jennifer Tod and Caryn Lyszczarz are new members on the board.

Ms Cook joined the board in 2018, a time when she was executive director of mental health services at South West Healthcare in Warrnambool.

Due to family circumstances she moved to Melbourne where she worked as chief executive of Ngwala Willumbong Aboriginal Corporation then moved on to her current role as nursing director and associate program director at Eastern Health.

So why Heywood?

“When I first joined the board I was interested in getting on a health board,” she said.

“I’d held a lot of governance positions, I’d been on the Northern Territory health and community services complaints commission and a few other roles.

“I wanted to make a contribution, but I needed to go to a service I didn’t have a conflict with, and Heywood was a really good option.

“I thought that I could add value for the small rural health service that it is”

There was plenty for HRH to get its teeth into in the near future, Ms Cook said.

A draft strategic plan was awaiting Health Department approval and key objectives included improving and strengthening infrastructure.

HRH had been approved for an as-yet unspecified amount of funding under a rural public sector residential aged care funding program and was “on the radar” of the Department and its building authority, which is really important for a small health service”.

Translating the aged care Royal Commission’s recommendations into reality was a key target.

All health services, especially rural, faced staffing challenges and keeping on top of that and attracting and retaining a quality workforce was also important, Ms Cook said.

As the former head of an Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation she also understood how important it was to have a good relationship with Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation.

“As long as there are services in Heywood we don’t really mind who delivers them, as long as the people of Heywood get the services,” Ms Cook said.

“Our relationship is probably unique and very collaborative and there’s real recognition that we’re all after the same thing.

“There’s a uniqueness to what ACCO’s can offer and we’re not suggesting we do a better job than them at that, but we want to make sure (Aboriginal people) are happy if they use our services”.

Ms Cook also paid tribute to HRH chief executive Leigh Parker and the staff, with Mr Parker bringing a different perspective to the service given his financial and corporate services background.

“We seriously punch above our weight in terms of the calibre of our staff, from volunteers, kitchen, environmental services, nursing staff, admin and the senior leadership team,” she said.

With another round of advertising for board members coming up later this year, Ms Cook encouraged applicants.

“We are looking for people who are interested and have got skills,” she said.

“Particularly in asset management and law, we don’t have any legal members at the moment.

“It’s so rewarding and because we’ve got such a great team, together we’re exceptionally strong.”

Mr Saunders took over a chairman about three year ago from Trish McLean.

“I really enjoyed my time,” he said.

“It wasn’t always easy, but it was really gratifying to set a long-term strategy and see that strategy come to fruition.”

Mr Saunders also acknowledged the efforts of Ms Loraine and Ms Price and he echoed Ms Cook’s words about locals joining the board.

“They played really important roles as well,” he said.

“I’d encourage people to stick their hand up and get involved in thing like that.

“It’s never easy but it’s a pretty rewarding thing to do.”

His own stint on the board began when his parents were likely to move into the aged care facility, “and I thought I should contribute something to your local facilities”.

He believe HRH was in a much stronger position now due to the hard work done over the years.

“When I joined it probably wasn’t sustainable, we had some serious financial issues and staffing issues but it’s a very functional organisation now.

“Probably the most important things are it’s well thought of by funding bodies and the Department of Health and you just don’t develop that sort of stuff overnight.

“The biggest achievement is it’s now sustainable, functional organisation that’s playing a major role within the Heywood community”.

That included the likes of the expansion of the medical clinic and home care services, allied health and aged care.

“We’ve got a good senior leadership team and very, very good motivated staff throughout the organisation,” Mr Saunders said.

“I think that’s the most notable thing, that’s been a big achievement.”

While there had been lows as well, “particularly the early days”, the way HRH has coped with the coronavirus pandemic was outstanding.

“I take my hat off to all the staff how they handled that under severe pressure, “Mr Saunders said.

“Many a shoulder went to the wheel. Throughout the whole organisation, all the staff need to be complimented with what they’ve done.”

The new board directors bring different experience to their roles.

Ms Tod is the longstanding branch manager of the Heywood Community Bank and previously was chief executive of the Glenelg Shire Council, her experience in local government focusing on health and community services.

She said she was keen to join HRH to contribute to the community.

Ms Tod has a Master’s in Business Administration and Certificate of Accounting.

Ms Lyszczarz is a medical scientist and has worked with Australian Red Cross Blood Service for 10 years.

She also said she applied for the position at HRH so she could contribute to the community after moving there in 2017 for a lifestyle change.

Ms Lyszczarz husband Mark is a paramedic based at Heywood, where they live with their daughters Celeste and Samantha.

Apart from her medical background, Ms Lyszczarz is also a registered civil celebrant as well as “stepping outside my comfort zone” and becoming a plant operator for Farmers Field Service.

Published and supplied by Portland Observer

Photo: Karyn Cook – New Board Chair