Hailing from the deep south, Nelson Marlborough Health’s (NMH) Chief Executive Lexie O’Shea comes to the position with experience having been chief operating officer and deputy chief executive of Southland’s hospitals during Invercargill Hospital’s rebuild.

Plans to rebuild Nelson Hospital have been in the pipeline for more than a decade but are now supposed to get underway this term of government. Lexie says the rebuild is exciting and she is committed to working to the timeframe set by the Minister of Health. “The hospital rebuild is important but it’s not a two-year event,” says Lexie. “So we are looking at changes in the interim. It’s amazing how creative and cost effective we can be. Administration offices are being relocated creating space for clinical services.”

Lexie is passionate about health promotion and preventing the need for hospital care where possible. For personal health she walks or runs most days and encourages walking meetings with staff.

For the region’s healthcare it means delivering care in a contemporary way. Lessons learned during lockdown have been valuable with telehealth now available in various departments, including oncology. Patients can access care from the comfort of home, surrounded by support rather than battling for a carpark and catching a shuttle.

Lexie says the hospital is only a small part of health services, but it is an expensive part.

“Hospitals are there for complex and episodic-type cares, and the rest is in the community.”

One of her major focuses is better health outcomes for the more vulnerable in the community. There is discussion around delivering care to families rather than to individuals, providing healthcare outside the typical 8am to 5pm model and teams going to where vulnerable people are, rather than asking them to access health services.

“Think whanau, not just a broken arm,” she says.

Lexie is very aware of the high number of over 65s in the community and sees it as very important to support community initiatives that help keep them fit and healthy.

The introduction of ‘swoop teams’ who go to patients and deliver early intervention help keep people in their own homes and out of hospital where possible. They also support rest homes to ensure residents can avoid hospital admittance unless needed.

Elective surgery waiting lists are met with a national scoring tool. While she admits the tool isn’t perfect, Lexie is proud of how NMH has performed, achieving 110 per cent of the Government’s target in 2019-2020.

For hip replacements, the goal is for a patient to be seen within 100 days of referral and to have had surgery within another 100 days.

“We have a superb team of people going above and beyond. The admin team are the glue and it’s a big team effort. Lockdown was a blip in the timeframes, but we are working hard to be back on track in 18 months to two years,” she says.

Alongside keeping quality care central, staff well-being and health is a priority.

She says healthcare is evolving with patient portals like Manage My Health giving people the ability to communicate with their GP without being seen every time they need something.

“We want to move from ‘what can we do’ to ‘what matters to you?’” says Lexie.

She welcomes discussion, knowing that good ideas come from different people seeing the world in different ways.

“We can’t always change things but we can always talk it through,” she says.

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