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Latest From the BOPDHB CEO, Helen Mason

In this, my first communication with you, I wanted to tell you a little about myself and also to comment on Phil Cammish’s legacy for our community and our BOPDHB.


In this, my first communication with you, I wanted to tell you a little about myself and also to comment on Phil Cammish’s legacy for our community and our BOPDHB.

On Tuesday last week I was given the honour of being welcomed by BOPDHB staff and providers. I feel very humbled by the welcomes at both Tauranga and Whakatane Hospitals that were extended to me, my family and friends.

My first job in Tauranga was working as a health care assistant at Matua Life Care. Yvonne Best, who was at the Tauranga welcome, gave me the role. When I applied she asked me: why do you want to be a HCA? You’re a qualified nurse and midwife and have an MBA. My reply was that as a new immigrant I was willing to take on any role, to get to know the system, and to get to know people. I’m deeply grateful to Yvonne for opening that first door for me.

On my first day as BOPDHB’s CEO, I was reminded of my very first day at Tauranga Hospital, over 18 years ago. My husband Max, and son Mungo and I had been in New Zealand for a little over a year. I wanted to get my NZ nursing registration and Wendy Bunker arranged for me to do six weeks of clinical experience on what was then ward 7, a surgical ward, before there was an official return to nursing programme. I’ve been extremely fortunate throughout my career to have many people who have supported, guided and mentored me. I’m grateful to all of them.

The BOP has been home to Max, Mungo and I for 19 years now. It’s been incredibly good to us. We have a deep commitment to the Bay and I have a burning passion to contribute to the health of our communities.

As the new CEO, I couldn’t ask for a better foundation than the one we have.

Phil Cammish’s legacy

With Phil Cammish’s retirement as CEO, we have reflected and acknowledged the work that he led in his 10 years with us. He transformed the BOPDHB in many ways. The clinical schools, radiation therapy available locally, great hospital buildings in Tauranga and Whakatane. The cluster leadership model, where our doctors and nurses work together with business leaders to shape the services our communities receive. Our strong relationships with our unions have led to successful programmes like Releasing Time to Care and Care Capacity Demand Management.

We have strong providers of health care in our hospitals and in our communities, through PHOs, pharmacy, rest homes, and the list goes on. Whilst thousands of staff and hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from Phil’s leadership, on a personal level I am deeply grateful for his support and mentoring. 

Health is in my blood

We have a unique opportunity to build on this solid foundation together. I believe that each of us has two jobs: to do our job and to improve our job. To always be thinking about what we can do to improve the health of our communities.

To do that well, we need to really understand what matters to our patients, to their families, and to our communities, through delivering person and family centred care. Not to be asking them what’s the matter with you, but understanding what matters to them.

That’s something that my mum did throughout her career. She nursed for 57 years, raised three daughters in council housing as a single mom. She instilled her passion for making a difference in us.

We have all nursed. My sister Liz is a nurse specialist at Starship hospital. My sister Jenny started her career as a nurse and now is a medical physicist. We were all delighted when my niece Janina decided to be a nurse. My career in health started at 13 when I joined St John’s. From the time I was six, I would spend time at my mom’s clinic, hanging out with the nurses. Health is in my blood.

The New Zealand Health Strategy

The refreshed New Zealand Health Strategy gives us a way to help our communities go from languishing to flourishing. To start well, get well, stay well, live well and end well. For us to support our communities to be truly healthy and thriving, we welcome the opportunity of working with a whole range of agencies, local authorities, councils, education and justice, in the years ahead. 

The future

We have a Board which is considered one of the best in the country, a Runanga which works closely with our Board to ensure we’re improving Maori Health, an excellent leadership team, thousands of dedicated staff (doctors, nurses, allied health, administration, orderlies, cleaners, support teams, in our hospitals and across all our community providers). Each and every one of us plays an important role in supporting our communities.

​I know the great work you do, the dedication you have to our communities. When I’m looking back on this role in time, I know that you will have been the best people I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

I feel a deep responsibility for ensuring our communities achieve the best health they can. I ask that you join me, to build on our solid foundation, and work together to achieve healthy thriving communities across the Bay of Plenty.


Success is not a destination, it’s a journey

Arthur Ashe, American professional tennis player

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