NZNO farewells, thanks Bloomfield as a ‘pro’

April 6, 2022

Outgoing director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield’s “guidance and stewardship” during the pandemic reduced pressure on the public health system at a challenging time for nurses, NZNO associate manager professional and nursing services Kate Weston says.

Ashley Bloomfield
Ashley Bloomfield

“His work through the pandemic has meant pressure on the public health system has been limited,” Weston said. “With the pre-existing and ongoing staffing crisis, the system would not have coped had we had a less restrictive approach to COVID management in the early outbreaks.”

The Public Service Commission announced Wednesday Bloomfield would be stepping down in at the end of July after four years in the role. He planned to take an extended break and spend time with his family.

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Weston said there had been “real challenges” for nurses throughout the pandemic, from accessing PPE on day one, being redeployed (including returning to the workforce if COVID-positive but mildly or asymptomatic) and mandatory vaccination.

However, his role was to provide guidance and stewardship through the pandemic, which he had done “generally very well”, she said.

“He was brand new to his director position and endured several hours of interrogation which he handled like a pro. I think he gained a lot of respect from that day”.

“The vaccinations strategy and roll-out (primarily by nurses) has been highly protective,” she said.

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NZNO professional and nursing services manager Mairi Lucas said she had been impressed with how Bloomfield conducted himself at the Waitangi Tribunal 2575 health services and outcomes inquiry at Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia in 2018. “He was brand new to his director position and endured several hours of interrogation which he handled like a pro. I think he gained a lot of respect from that day”.

Mairi Lucas
Mairi Lucas

However, NZNO did not always agree with his perspective. “We did challenge him a lot over the years on the messages he was sharing every day that were in contrast to the reality for nurses on the floor.”

Overall, he maintained his “professionalism and decorum” under tough conditions “when no one knew what to expect next with COVID”, Lucas said.

In 2018, Bloomfield was appointed as director-general from his role as acting chief executive at Capital & Coast DHB. He replaced Chai Chuah, who resigned in 2017 following the arrival of then-new health minister David Clark.

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Previously, Bloomfield’s career included stints as acting director of public health at the MOH, a role with the World Health Organization in disease prevention and control, and a spell as chief executive at Hutt Vally DHB from 2015 to 2018.