New Board Chair to guide WDHS through unprecedented times

Caption: WDHS outgoing Chair Ian Whiting (seated) with new Board Chair Darren Barber

Steering a health service through a once in a century pandemic might not be for everyone, but new Western District Health Service (WDHS) Board Chair, Darren Barber says it’s a sense of responsibility to community that has driven him to accept the role.

Mr Barber joined the Board in 2013 and stepped up to lead the organisation after outgoing Board Chair, Ian Whiting’s term finished at the end of June.

Mr Barber is the current Manager of Organisational Development at Southern Grampians Shire Council and says despite a challenging 12 months for WDHS, he is looking forward to serving the community as Board Chair.

“With a cyber-security breach in 2019 causing months of disruption to the hospital’s email and web based systems and the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, it’s been a difficult time.

What has shone through during this period is the incredible resilience of staff, who have shown great adaptability and resourcefulness during both the outage and the COVID crisis.

Ian’s stewardship of the organisation has also been exceptional and I’d like to thank him for his dedication and many contributions to the Health Service over the nine years he served on the Board,” Mr Barber said.

Mr Whiting recently moved to Geelong and says that although the role of chairperson can be enormously challenging, it has been incredibly rewarding.

“I was fortunate to have great role models and mentors in Mary-Ann Brown and Hugh Macdonald. I was also very lucky to work with excellent and dedicated board members and a wonderful, generous community.  

The Chief Executive, Rohan Fitzgerald, along with his incredible team have worked tirelessly to ensure the Health Service delivers exceptional care, and is as prepared as it can be for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Darren is an experienced leader and has been an excellent Deputy Chair. I know he is ready and able to take the health service forward and I wish him all the best in his new role,” Mr Whiting said.

Mr Barber says COVID-19 will remain a huge focus for the organisation for the foreseeable future, but the Board is also setting its sights beyond the pandemic.

“Ensuring the organisation has the resources and capacity to respond to this ongoing crisis is obviously a key focus, but we are also looking to finalise the organisation’s five year strategic plan over the coming months, which is a significant body of work,” Mr Barber said.

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