Community connections will be key for new Kilmore District Health, KDH, chief executive Arish Naresh as he helps guide the health service following two years of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Mr Naresh was appointed chief executive in April and started with KDH on May 30.
Originally from Fiji, Mr Naresh trained in dental therapy at the Fiji School of Medicine before completing a post graduate Diploma in Health Services Management and a Master of Health Science in New Zealand.
Mr Naresh moved to New Zealand in 2006 and occupied several management and executive health positions, including as director of allied health in Gisborne and scientific and technical executive director of allied health in Wellington.
He moved to Australia in 2019, becoming program director for specialty medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, before moving to Omeo District Health as chief executive.
Mr Naresh said after spending most of his time in Omeo in lockdown, the position of chief executive at KDH was an appealing opportunity.
“When this opportunity came up I thought I would give it a go. It’s closer to the city, but I’m a farming boy from Fiji so I wasn’t looking at something very metro,” he said.
“Kilmore was the right fit for me – it’s close enough to get into the city, but I can also get out into the country when I feel like it.”
Mr Naresh said engaging with primary and allied health providers, as well as the broader Mitchell Shire community, would be a focus during his tenure.
“One of the things I like to do quite a lot is be out there in the community,” he said.
“I’m hoping to meet with community leaders … to be part of events that are local to Kilmore and the surrounding districts.
“What’s been missing during COVID is that we’ve stopped seeing a lot of patients in person. We tend to do a lot of things online … but I value personal interactions and interactions within the community.”
With demand for urgent care increasing, Mr Naresh said it was important for KDH to review the way it delivered its services.
“We are looking at doing something differently so people don’t have to wait too long to be seen,” he said.
“That’s why we are undertaking a clinical services planning project at the moment, which is one of the signature projects for us.
“When you are in distress you don’t want to wait for a long time to be seen and we feel it’s a strong duty for us to be able to provide that.”
Mr Naresh said community engagement was more important now than ever following the uncertainty of the pandemic.
“People don’t know we’ve started certain services again, and we really want to put ourselves out there and say: ‘this is your health service, these are the things we’re providing’,” he said.
“It’s been a team effort to manage the pandemic. The community has come in for testing, they’ve worn masks when we’ve said that’s what is required, and they’ve got their vaccinations.
“Everyone has played their part in terms of pandemic management – now it’s our turn to re-engage in everything else around health and wellbeing, and that’s going to be a key focus.”
Mr Naresh paid tribute to his new colleagues at KDH for their work during the pandemic and for helping him settle into the job.
“It’s a committed team of people doing their best in challenging circumstances,” he said.
“I’m starting to settle quite well. People have been great. The staff here have been very friendly and assisted with the settling-in process.”