Dr Ashley Bloomfield was announced today as the new Director General of Health – the third appointment this decade to lead the controversy-hit Ministry of Health.

Ashley Bloomfield

The appointment of Bloomfield, a public health physician by training and currently acting chief executive of Capital & Coast District Health Board, as Director-General and chief executive of the Ministry was announced today by Deputy State Services Commissioner Debbie Power.

Health Minister Dr David Clark has welcomed Bloomfield’s appointment to replace Chai Chuah – who resigned late last year – saying Bloomfield has the “skills and experience to be an outstanding leader for the Ministry of Health”.

Bloomfield graduated from the University of Auckland medical school in 1991, qualified as a public health physician in 1999 and still holds a current practising certificate. He has earlier worked for the Ministry of Health as Chief Advisor Public Health, helped establish the Health Quality and Safety Commission and in 2011 spent a year at the World Health Organization in Geneva working on prevention and control of non-commmunicable diseases. In 2015 he became chief executive of Hutt Valley District Health Board and in January was seconded to be Chief Executive at Capital and Coast District Health Board.

Clark said Bloomfield  understands “our health system”, has a clinical and health policy background and had sector leadership experience.

“That depth and breadth of experience – and the strong relationships Dr Bloomfield has in the health sector – will be invaluable as he takes over leadership of the Ministry of Health. I look forward to working with him.”

Power said Bloomfield was a highly respected leader who brought with him a “real passion for public healthcare” as well as a breadth of experience.  He takes up his five year appointment on June 11.

Both Clark and Power thanked acting Director-General of Health Stephen McKernan for his work since he was seconded to step in to the position in February after former Director-General Chai Chuah resigned in early December citing “controversy in the sector” as one of his reasons for stepping down early.

Chuah, an accountant and also a former chief executive of the Hutt Valley DHB had joined the Ministry in 2010 as national director of the then National Health Board. He had become the Ministry’s acting Director General and chief executive in November 2013 and was formally appointed in March 2015.

Last year Labour, while in opposition, called for Chuah’s resignation from the role after financial mismanagement of the refit of the Ministry of Health’s head office meant the Government had to contribute $18 million for what was supposed to be a self-funded job.

These calls were renewed when a major health budget blunder this year saw many District Health Boards promised millions more in funding than they were actually to receive.  Health Minister David Clark said following Chuah’s resignation that Chuah had not been pushed and the decision to leave had been Chuah’s own, though the Minister agreed with his resignation.

McKernan was previously Director-General of Health from 2006-2010 before former Scottish health boss Dr Kevin Woods, who had a PhD, took over the role in early 2011 and held it until 2013.

The Ministry of Health is the Government’s chief advisor on health and disability matters and seeks to improve, promote and protect the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. The Director-General of Health leads a sizeable department, administers a complex set of regulatory functions and oversees a public health budget of more than $18 billion across a workforce of more than 65,000.

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