By: Natalie Akoorie

Dr Tom Watson is stepping down as chief medical officer at Waikato District Health Board but remains at Waikato Hospital as an anaesthetist. Photo / Waikato DHB.

Dr Tom Watson, the Waikato District Health Board chief medical officer is stepping down from the DHB’s top clinical role, one he has held for 10 years.

Watson is the third member to quit the DHB’s executive management team in as many months but unlike former chief executive Dr Nigel Murray and Waikato Hospital executive director Brett Paradine, Watson has not resigned.

Instead he will continue in his role as an anaesthetist going back to full-time clinical work.

Watson, who suffered a cardiac arrest in late 2016, said he made the decision prior to Christmas.

“I made that decision a while ago and I’m just working through what it looks like for the future.

“After my cardiac arrest and cardiac surgery I need to refocus what’s important for me and what’s not.”

Watson said he also wanted to make way in the senior management team for new ideas and a fresh skillset under the direction of interim chief executive Derek Wright.

Wright took over as interim CEO after Murray quit in October amid an expenses scandal which is still being investigated by the State Services Commission and Deputy Auditor-General.

Six weeks later in November Paradine quit after 14 years at the DHB, and critical care clinical unit leader Dr Grant Howard took over the Waikato Hospital services executive director role temporarily.

However last week it was announced Howard, who has been a manager at the DHB previously, was now interim chief operating officer for Waikato Hospital.

He is to remain in the role until January 2019, the same timeframe Wright will remain interim chief executive for after the DHB put on hold its 18-month recruitment for a new CEO.

Watson said after a decade as chief medical officer “you start to get a bit stale”.

It was that reason and Watson’s cardiac arrest that changed his outlook.

Dr Tom Watson, centre, with good Samaritans from left, Tom Healy, Josh Palmer, and brothers Drew and Blake Bolli, during a reunion after they saved Watson’s life. Photo / Natalie Akoorie

Watson was lucky to survive the cardiac arrest which happened in October 2016 while he was driving in Hamilton.

When he crashed into a commercial building in front of a van load of young men they began CPR within seconds and used a defibrillator that saved Watson’s life.

Together with an advanced surgery at Waikato Hospital where Watson’s heart did not have to be put on a bypass machine, it allowed him to make a relatively fast and full recovery.

Watson said he would remain available to support his successor.

When asked if he planned to re-shape the executive management team Wright said he was “looking at whether I have the right people in the right roles, but no decisions have been made”.

Waikato DHB spokeswoman Lydia Aydon said mental health and addictions clinical director Rees Tapsell would act in the role for three months while a new chief medical officer was recruited.

Tapsell said he was looking forward to assisting in the transition process to a new chief medical officer.

“I would like to also acknowledge the great contribution that Tom Watson has made to the Waikato DHB in this role, for many years.”

Tapsell would begin on January 15 when he returns from leave.

Source: NZ Herald

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