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Budget not good: new hospital boss

Friday, 7th January, 2011

Stuart Riley Stuart Riley

By Stefan Delatovic

Stuart Riley has started work as the Chief Executive of the newly-formed Far West Health Network.

Mr Riley was appointed to the role by NSW Minister for Health Carmel Tebbutt shortly before Christmas. He began work this week.

The Far West Network began operation on January 1. It encompasses Broken Hill, Tibooburra, Wilcannia, Menindee and Ivanhoe, and was expanded late in December to include Wentworth and Balranald.

Mr Riley was General Manager of the Broken Hill Hospital for two years until 1999. From there he went on to be Director of Mental Health and Counselling for the Far West Area Health Service.

Mr Riley said the health system reform created a lot of potential for goodthings to be done, and he had returned to be a part of that.

He will work alongside the Far West Health Network’s Governing Council - chaired by Dr Steve Flecknoe- Brown - over the next six months to see the network established.

He said the Council would draw upon the community and their experience to keep services improving. 

Mr Riley will work to ensure the Council’s direction is realised while balancing that against the needs of the government.

As he gets stuck into the job, Mr Riley said he would be working to set up strong relationships with other health services within the network’s area, such as theMaari Ma Aboriginal Health Service and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

“That’s a way of ensuring the network is effectively linked in to the community and the big issues,” he said. Mr Riley said the new network had a lot of potential.

“The expanded role of the Commonwealth should eliminate some of the cost shifting,” he said. “And the reduced geographical footprint should make decision-making much more responsive to local needs.

That’s particularly important for the Far West; issues facing isolated communities will no longer have to be treated as the exception, rather they’re now the rule.”

But Mr Riley said the introduction of an episode funding model, planned for 2013, would provide a challenge for the region.

An episode model sets hospital budgets based on the amount and type of procedures they perform, with a set price established for each task.

The Far West would need to know what the prices were being benchmarked against before such a system was implemented, Mr Riley said, to ensure it was appropriate.

It will be a while before the new network is up and running properly, and Mr Riley said the budget “doesn’t look particularly good” at the moment.

He said more nurses were still being employed, however, and was confident such growing pains would be smoothed out soon enough.

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