HEALTHY CAREER: Chief executive of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District, Wayne Jones, spent 10 years as a nurse before moving into management.
HEALTHY CAREER: Chief executive of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District, Wayne Jones, spent 10 years as a nurse before moving into management. Alison Paterson

Meet the man in charge of our health district

FOR a boy from Western Sydney to chose nursing as a career some 35 years ago, it was an unusual decision in more ways than one.

However, for the then 18-year-old Wayne Jones, it was an easy choice.

He knew a health-care profession was for him, so attending nursing college seemed the right move to make.

Back then nursing was considered a women's career path which was reflected when Mr Jones turned up to find only one other male in a class of almost 40.

As the middle of five sons in what he describes as "a very working-class family”, Mr Jones said he's never regretted his decision.

Now as the chief executive of the Northern New South Wales Local Health District, Mr Jones looks back on first few days as a nursing student and said he would not change a thing.

"There was one other boy in the class full of women and we are still dear friends to this day,” he said.

"I still remember my first day on the women's ward and how frighted I was.”

But confident he was in a career which would allow him to make a positive contribution to the community, Mr Jones stuck with his decision and resisted the opportunity to move into related areas such as becoming an ambulance officer.

"After graduating I decided to keep on learning,” he said.

"So I obtained post-graduate nursing qualifications in areas including Intensive Care and Cardiology.”

By then he'd worked in several different hospital environments and the experience of working under varying degrees of management styles led Mr Jones to make the momentous step to move away from hands-on nursing.

He said his a-ha! moment came after he was critical of the way a hospital manager was overseeing some staff.

"We had a disagreement and she eventually threw down her pass and said if you think you can do better then go ahead,” he said.

"So with the brashness of youth I did.”

Fast forward through a variety of nursing management roles over the next 33 years and Mr Jones was appointed to his current role in May 2016.

Prior to his appointment Mr Jones had held a number of roles on the North Coast including manager of planning, director of clinical streams and chief of staff.

"I came for two years in 2000 and stayed ever since,” he said.

During the past 18 months, Mr Jones had overseen the $180 million redevelopment of the Lismore Base Hospital including a new paediatric unit, a helipad, new operating theatres, women's care unit, medical imaging services and new inpatient units and a 12-level south tower is due to be completed early 2018.

He was at the helm when an additional $52.5 million was announced by the NSW Government in June for the final Stage 3C of the redevelopment, including an enhanced Intensive Care Unit, new inpatient units and new education, training, research and administration facilities.

But unlike his capital city counterparts, Mr Jones office not in the new and shiny part of the LBH, but in a decidedly un-glamourous brick building.

In his office Mr Jones praised the districts 6000 staff whom he said are the engine of the NNSWLHD.

He said he felt privileged to work with such dedicated people.

"They do an outstanding job,” he said. "I'm really proud of the way everyone works across the health district, we have some of the best people anywhere and we are continuing to attract some wonderful talent.”

He said the district's liaison with Southern Cross University and other educational bodies has expanded their ability to conduct more research.

Mr Jones said the past 12 months has been a challenging time for the organisation, as they had to cope with the pressures ranging from the 2017 Floods through to roster issues and derision from the anti-vaccination lobby.

He said the health district is continually working to improve immunisation rates in Northern NSW.

"Together with other local health care providers, research projects are under way to improve our understanding of parents who chose not to vaccinate, and how we can best communicate with them,” he said.

"It's an issue that affects us all, and I'm happy to see the tide slowly turning here in our region. Still, we need the help of community members and the media to play a role in increasing the acceptance of scientifically-based evidence around vaccination locally. I'm happy to say that there are some groups out in the community doing a great job, and we'll continue to support them.” 

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