Wairarapa District Health Board chief executive Dale Oliff. PHOTO/FILE

Lisa Urbani

Dale Oliff has not even been the chief executive of the Wairarapa District Health Board for one year, and she has already had to preside over some major challenges – a large deficit, recruitment issues, and now covid-19.

As leader of the Wairarapa DHB, she believes in the power of “optimism, and being forward-thinking, developing people, having a good knowledge base of what the health system looks like – locally and internationally – and giving clear direction”.

These are qualities that will stand her in good stead as she tackles the issues and “works with the hospital board to set a pathway for health services to meet the needs of the population”.

Her background, first as a nurse, and then later serving several DHBs as Director of Nursing for nearly 13 years, before she became the acting chief operating officer for the Hutt Valley DHB – means Dale brings a wide range of experience to the job.

Now based in Wairarapa – she grew up in rural mid-Canterbury near Ashburton – she says there are many similarities with Wairarapa in terms of the values and outdoor life that she enjoys.

Her focus will be on “developing services across the health system, not just the hospital – concentrating on equity and vulnerable people, while also working with young people and iwi.

“What is the matter with you, should be, what matters to you?” she says.

By June, a strategic plan that is under development, drawn up in consultation with commissions, community partners, local government, not-for-profits, and service providers, would be presented to the DHB, and submissions by the public are welcome.

One plan is to make health services more accessible to the public across the towns of Wairarapa, as well as embracing technology.

“It has to work for the patients,” she said.

“People are at the heart of everything, we must be guided by them.”

Her mission cannot succeed alone, she believes in “fostering and growing people to lead themselves, and teamwork is essential to get the best outcomes”.

The Wairarapa DHB has many strengths, as shown by the covid-19 response, with all the players from local government and regional health organisations working together.

“Knowing the community well because of its size, the DHB can be adaptable and do things differently, having the courage to work through the problems it faces and to move forward.”

Those problems would include spending the health dollars wisely, recruiting permanent staff to avoid having to pay locum costs, having continuity of care, and striving for quality of services.

These are all big asks, but with Dale’s strong relationships with her counterparts in Wellington and the ability to work collaboratively, she thinks it is an exciting opportunity for innovation and showing initiative.



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