OUTGOING: Northern NSW health boss Chris Crawford has announced he will be stepping down.
OUTGOING: Northern NSW health boss Chris Crawford has announced he will be stepping down. Marc Stapelberg

Health Minister praises retiring Northern Rivers health boss

RETIRING Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Chris Crawford has been praised for his work by NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner.

Mr Crawford has announced he will not renew his current contract with the local health service and will step down on December 31.

The announcement marks the close of a 15-year career heading up health services on the Northern Rivers, starting with his appointment as chief executive of the former Northern Rivers Area Health Service in 2000.

In the time since then, Mr Crawford has presided over the banishment (something he said he opposed) and reintroduction of community-based management boards and the service's expansion across the North Coast and contraction back to the Northern Rivers.

He has also seen plenty of controversy with issues such as the closing of the old public rehabilitation unit at St Vincent's Hospital and the downgrading of Coraki's historic Campbell Hospital.

OPINION: Life for Crawford as health boss was never easy

Mr Crawford said he stayed after the health service's contraction from the giant North Coast Area Health Service, partly because of "unfinished business", notably Stage Three of the Lismore and Grafton base hospital redevelopments, the Byron Coastal Hospital, the Pottsville HealthOne and the Yamba Community Health Centre.

With these projects now all done or underway and new projects rolling over the horizon, Mr Crawford said the time was ripe to move on.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner described Mr Crawford as a friend and praised him for his professionalism.

"Chris has been a friend of mine for many years and I wish him all the best in his next chapter and retirement," she said in a statement.

"My first contact with Chris as a health professional was when he was executive director of St George Hospital. 

"When he was acting chief executive in the Western Sydney regions, clinicians spoke very highly of him.  My dealings with him have always been very professional and I hold him in very high regard.

"Throughout his 15 year career leading the restructured Northern NSW Local Health District, Chris has helped shape the region's health services and managed change and reform at the district's hospitals.

"In my time as Health Minister, I have worked with Chris to see major hospital upgrades underway at Lismore and Byron - with others to begin in the near future - which will provide greater health services for the growing Northern Rivers community.

"He will leave the Northern NSW Local Health District in a great condition for the next chief executive and I know he will be missed by local staff and clinicians."

Health District Board chairman Brian Pezzutti said Mr Crawford's announcement had come out of the blue for the board.

"I think we will be the sadder for his going in December, but all good things have to come to an end," Dr Pezzutti said. "He's been an outstanding chief executive."

Dr Pezzutti described Mr Crawford as one of the most highly regarded health service chief executives in NSW.

While Mr Crawford will retire from the health service, he's not quite ready to become a house husband yet.

He said he hoped to take up some corporate board positions. He also intended to write a PhD thesis on the interface between politics and the public service and to start a blog.

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