By Colin MacGillivray

IMPROVING telehealth capabilities and forging closer ties with other health services are among the top priorities for new Kilmore District Health chief executive David Naughton.

Mr Naughton replaced outgoing chief executive Sue Race last month and said he was eager to make an immediate impact.

“We’ve got a new strategic direction that really clearly articulates why we wanted to change the name [from Kilmore and District Hospital] to Kilmore District Health, which is important because it’s more than just a hospital,” he said.

“We want to do service planning for how Kilmore positions itself in conjunction with the Hume region and with our colleagues in the Northern Health area as well.

“So there’s a whole heap of planning work that we need to do, which I’ll be driving and supporting and working with the board and the staff to bring about.

“We’ll identify the reforms that are needed, how we can fund them and then get on and do it.

“It’s a several-year project – it’s not something that happens overnight – but we have the direction, which is really good.

“It’s also about maintaining the important services we have here for residential aged care, district nursing services, maternity services and the busy elective surgery unit.”

Mr Naughton brings a wealth of experience to the role, having started in the health sector as a nurse in the early 1980s before going on to take roles in mental, general and public health.

He has worked across a range of country and metropolitan health services and, for more than 20 years, has focused on executive management.

Mr Naughton served as executive director of mental health for the WA Country Health Service and most recently was an executive for the Central Adelaide Local Health Network, coordinating the service’s COVID-19 response.

He said increasing the telehealth capabilities of Kilmore District Health would be a focus.

“I’m a big fan of telehealth. I’ve been working in it since the 90s in Western Australia,” he said.

“We had telehealth become very viable, and we’ve been really pushing it hard over the last five years, particularly in Adelaide where we really needed it. Of course, during COVID it’s finally come to the top of the pile so that’s great.

“Telehealth improves access to services for people. [People] don’t have to travel as much and they can do their pre-admission appointments and follow-up appointments from home. That can reduce travel and reduce stress … I think it’s like an addition to a facility that enables better care.”

Mr Naughton, who grew up in country Western Australia, said Kilmore District Health’s excellent reputation and an opportunity to live in a regional area again made his decision to take the chief executive job an easy one.

“I think being CEO is a good opportunity. You get to run your own show and you get to make a difference by working with a really solid team,” he said.

“Kilmore has got a really good reputation and Sue Race did a fantastic job in pulling all that together in the past.

“It was a great opportunity really to come into a very functional service and look at what we can do to make it even better.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their welcome – it’s been fantastic.”