New health chief acknowledges demands faced by staff

New Central Coast Health CEO Scott McLachlan

New Central Coast Local Health District (CCLHD) CEO Scott McLachlan has a big job ahead of him but he is no stranger to managing huge health districts.

Most recently having spent nine years as CEO of the Western NSW Local Health District, which covers some 250,000 square kilometres and includes multiple public hospitals, McLachlan brings a wealth of experience to the Coast’s top health job.

A self-confessed “country boy”, McLachlan was raised at Inverell, where his family’s connections with the Salvation Army saw him helping to care for the homeless from an early age.

“I think it was this background of wanting to help others which led me into health care,” he said this week in an exclusive interview with CCN.

“I come from a clinical background, having started as an exercise physio working with children with spina bifida around 27 years ago.

“Seeing those kids with a crippling condition become able to participate in society gave me a lot of joy and made me want to help even more people.”

McLachlan is no newcomer to the Coast having worked as Deputy CEO at Brisbane Waters Private Hospital some 25 years ago, where he played an important role in helping develop the hospital’s cardiac services.

He has also worked at Hunter New England Local Health District and said the role at CCLHD has interested him for years.

“It is the perfect alignment for me,” he said.

“My wife Rebekah works for Coast and Country Primary Care and we have found a great house at Wamberal.”

McLachlan said his son Josiah, who is in the Navy, and daughter Jennifer, who is in her final year of high school, were keen to embrace the coastal lifestyle.

He comes to CCLHD following 18 months of highs and lows for the health district, which saw Gosford and Wyong hospitals stretched due to COVID-19 and the opening of the new Clinical School and Research Institute in the grounds of Gosford Hospital.

But the future is looking bright, McLachlan said.

“We have two of the best developments in NSW in the revamped Gosford and Wyong hospitals and the new clinical school is a shining star,” he said.

“The research institute is sure to attract high calibre clinicians.”

As nurses and midwives rallied for better staffing ratios at both hospitals, especially in maternity services, this week, McLachlan acknowledged that the past 18 months had been “really difficult” for all hospitals in the state as they juggled the demands of COVID-19 along with regular patient loads.

“We have amazing staff and I am blown away by their calibre,” he said.

“But we have seen a real increase in the demand on pregnancy services (since the advent of COVID).

“There are a lot of babies being born and we are doing a good job of managing that but we do have a few vacancies which we are trying to fill.

“We are also in the process of recruiting Emergency Department staff – we know we need to provide the right staffing levels and are always recruiting new people.

“Having said that, we do not have a very high vacancy rate.”

McLachlan said providing in-home services would continue to be a major focus for the health district.

“I want to see the Central Coast set a gold standard for health care,” he said.

“With another 60,000 residents expected in the region in the next 10 years, we want to keep as many people out of hospital as possible.

“So our out of hospital health care services will need to continue to grow.”

Terry Collins