FOSTER’S South Gippsland Hospital (SGH) Board of Directors Chair Sue Pilkington is stepping down after six years in the leadership role, as well as away from the Board at the end of her nine-year directorship tenure, on Friday June 30, 2023.
Current Board Director and Treasurer Dr David Pollard will take over as the SGH Board Chair on Saturday July 1, 2023.
Two fellow SGH Directors are also leaving the Board on June 30; Associate Professor Priscilla Robinson completes her tenure and will continue her work with Latrobe University and with the World Health Organisation (WHO), advising on global Public Health education and accreditation.
Professor Jim Buttery has reluctantly stepped away from re-appointment after six years due to his numerous and increasing professional appointments and obligations, including as Adviser to WHO on global vaccine safety, Chair of SAEFVIC, TGA Vaccine Advisory Committee, Professor of Child Health Informatics at the University of Melbourne, Group Head of Health Informatics at MCRI.
Ms Pilkington said “SGH has been fortunate to have two such highly regarded professionals make time to give service as Directors.”
Three new Directors have already been chosen for the SGH Board and their names will be made public on Saturday July 1, 2023 when their respective tenures begin.
SGH Chief Executive Officer Paul Greenhalgh said that since becoming Chair in July 2017, Ms Pilkington “has led SGH through the toughest time in history, namely the COVID-19 pandemic, and yet produced an incredible outcome for our community.”
Mr Greenhalgh noted several highlights overseen by the Board during the past six years at SGH, including the COVID-19 response, and growth in Community Care services such as Victoria’s first Seniors Day Stay program and other Respite care, the start of Home Care Packages, the Positive Ageing program, and increased District Nursing and Allied Health services.
He also cited major capital investment in conjunction with great success in securing State and Federal government funding resulting in $5 million worth of building works, including SGH’s new operating theatre and maternity suite, the Banksia Centre’s refurbishment, and the redesigned Acute Ward and Urgent Care Centre as further examples.
SGH has also been able to upgrade its information and communications technology, security and safety, and fire protection systems, along with renewing and improving medical and non-medical equipment such as a steriliser, an osmosis unit, boilers, electrical switchboards, and generators.
“It’s been such a great honour to have been Board Chair of SGH for the past six years and to have been part of the team that delivered such significant benefit to this health service and to our community,” Ms Pilkington said.
“Around the time I was appointed to the Board, the Department of Health introduced the nine-year limit on tenure, which means that no-one can serve on a Public Hospital for more than nine years, which for me comes up at the end of this month.
“In the past, Public Hospital Board Directors could continue to serve year after year, and at SGH many of our Directors did just that, with some offering the Hospital and the community their knowledge and wisdom for literally decades.
“Honorary Life Governors had been appointed at SGH from the time the Hospital was established until 2007 to acknowledge a significant contribution by an individual to the Hospital.
“The SGH Board re-established this annual award in 2017 to recognise those people in this community who have given so much to our health service, through their service and commitment or through financial support,” she said.
“The Honour Board in the foyer of the Hospital is a permanent and public acknowledgement of those appointed as Honorary Life Governors, all of whom who have contributed to the health service we see today.”
“There are so many people whom I have met and worked alongside during my tenure as Director and my terms as Chair and I would like to acknowledge and thank them and to highlight what we’ve achieved together,” Ms Pilkington said.
“Grateful thanks are especially due to the members of our local community for their generosity to the health service and for trusting us with their care.
“Thank you to our CEOs and executives, and to the SGH Board – past and present – for the valuable contribution every person has made to the high-quality health service we see today.
“Thank you to every one of our SGH staff for the expertise and dedication they bring to the health service every day, no matter what else is going on,” Ms Pilkington said.
“And, of course, ongoing thanks must go to all of the medical officers at the Foster Medical Centre for their work with SGH.”
Ms Pilkington was appointed to the SGH Board in 2014 after responding to a Victorian Government Department of Health advertisement in The Mirror seeking applications from suitably qualified members of the community to join the Board.
With a professional career spanning decades in workplace safety and business risk throughout Australia and internationally, and her own still active consultancy business, Ms Pilkington had recently come back to South Gippsland to settle in the Foster area.
Already familiar with the Corner Inlet district after living at Sandy Point for quite some years previously, Ms Pilkington also had another rather special connection to SGH, in that she had given birth to her daughter Caitlin there, who is now a parent herself!
She, too, could offer her periods of service as Chair of the Safety Institute of Australia Ltd and its predecessor entity, and her proven executive and operational experience in workplace health and safety and in risk management, to the Department of Health, and so, to the SGH Board.
“I remember being interviewed by then SGH Board Directors Bill Fuller and Meg Knight, and then being welcomed so warmly on to the Board as a new Director,” Ms Pilkington said.
“There are a number of committees serving the Board, and their memberships include various Board Directors, SGH executive team members, appointed officers and at some meetings there are community representatives.
“When I first came on to the Board I was on the Finance Committee and on Audit and Risk, and since then I’ve been a member of all of them, including Planning, Clinical Governance and Quality, and the Remuneration Committee,” she said.
“You do become quite good at attending meetings as a Board Director and as Chair, however it has been a pleasure to work so closely with such dedicated and insightful people across the health service and in the community.”
Ms Pilkington said she and the Board have welcomed and celebrated the number of ways in which improved buildings and equipment have so effectively supported the expansion of SGH’s services.
“There is our collaboration with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to pilot a patient transport service with the help of community volunteers, and our theatre upgrade has allowed us to support Latrobe Regional Hospital in reducing its elective surgery lists,” she said.
“COVID-19 had an enormous impact on the way we operated at our health service for several years, and our staff continued day to day work while navigating some huge changes in the way we delivered care at the Hospital, in our Community Health Centre and in people’s homes.
We saw people assisting other health services with COVID vaccinations, testing and contact tracing while other SGH staff members moved into different roles to allow that to happen.
“Even now, long after the immediate threat passed, we still have controls around testing and masks to keep our staff, patients and visitors safe,” Ms Pilkington said.
“The results from the Victorian Government’s Our People Matter Survey are consistently better than peer and State benchmarks, reflecting the very positive workplace culture at SGH.
“In February this year we received a letter from the Secretary of the Health Department advising that in 2022, SGH was identified as one of the seven best performing organisations in the State in the area of senior leadership, as rated by our own workforce,” she said.
“Every person in our health service contributes to SGH’s excellent reputation and the outstanding level of care it provides to our community.”
Ms Pilkington said she wanted to “particularly acknowledge the work of the Hospital Auxiliary and the incredible contribution of its members, both past and present, to SGH and our community.
“In around 85 years of continuous operation the members of the Auxiliary have worked tirelessly and productively to raise around $780,000 for the purchase of hospital equipment,” she said.
“I’m also proud of how we have collaborated with our sub-regional and regional partners, working closely with Bass Coast Health,
Gippsland Southern Health Service, Kooweerup Health Service and Latrobe Regional Hospital to deliver improvements in service delivery across our region.
“We are strongly committed to our role in that regional and subregional work, but we never lose sight of the fact that SGH’s focus remains on delivering safe and high-quality health care, close to home,” Ms Pilkington said.
“I am glad that I have been able to be of service to the Hospital and to this community.”
Ms Pilkington’s contribution to the Corner Inlet district will continue in another form, as she has accepted an invitation to join the Board of the Bendigo Bank’s Toora and District, and Foster Community Bank branches.