Stepping down: Northern NSW Local Health Network chief executive Chris Crawford will retire at the end of the year.
Stepping down: Northern NSW Local Health Network chief executive Chris Crawford will retire at the end of the year. Jacklyn Wagner

Chris Crawford announces intention to retire as health boss

AFTER 15 years running the Northern Rivers' public health system, Chris Crawford will retire at the end of the year.

The Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive announced his intention to retire in a statement issued last night.

Mr Crawford said he had stayed in the position since the end of the old North Coast Area Health Service to deal with "unfinished business", but that work was now done.

The "unfinished business" included the start of construction of Lismore Base Hospital's full Stage Three upgrade and the Byron Central Hospital as well as the completed upgrades of the Grafton Base Hospital, Pottsville HealthOne and the Yamba Community Health Centre.

The Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment  project has been planned on paper for more than a decade but was mired in politics before Stage Two (the radiotherapy unit) was funded by the former Labor government and the full Stage Three upgrade was begun by the State Government early this year.

Mr Crawford's retirement will mark the end of a long period as the most powerful individual in Northern Rivers health services and a career often marked by controversy.

He began in the role in 2000 as the chief executive of the former Northern Rivers Area Health Service and continued in the role through another two identity changes as the area's footprint expanded and contracted again.

In 2006 he clashed with local politicians and medicos with his decision to close the public rehabilitation unit based at St Vincent's Hospital and later clashed with the Coraki community over the decision to downgrade the town's Campbell Hospital.

However, he has also presided over an enormous increase in activity by Northern Rivers public health services, including, a near doubling of the number of inpatients treated by the region's hospitals, and the region's foray into health education with the University Centre for Rural Health Campuses.

"NNSW LHD is well positioned for the future with the following funded projects in the pipeline: The Tweed Hospital Stage 4A, GBH Ambulatory Care Centre, Ballina Hospital Operating Theatre and Medical Imaging upgrade, Bonalbo Multipurpose Service and the Coraki HealthOne Centre," Mr Crawford said.

"It has been a privilege to lead such a talented and dedicated group of Clinicians and Staff over the past fifteen years. I thank them for the support I have received and for their contributions to enhancing the provision of North Coast health services."

"Also I would like to acknowledge the tremendous support I have received from two Boards and from the NNSW LHD Executive."

"The Board will recruit a new Chief Executive, who I will provide with a comprehensive handover."

"In the meantime I will continue to actively lead the implementation of the current NNSW LHD initiatives over the next few months."

Mr Crawford's term as chief executive will finish with the end of his current five year contract.