McRae appointed as LRH’s new chief

A dream come true: Don McRae's tenure as CEO of the LRH began this week. photograph supplied

Zac Standish

Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH) is set to embark on a new era, with former chief operating officer Don McRae stepping into the role of chief executive officer following the retirement of Peter Craighead last week.

Coming from a nursing background, Mr McRae has spent the entirety of his professional career in the health care industry and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that will ensure an easy transition for what has become one of the state’s largest regional hospitals.

Officially beginning his new duties on Monday, he expressed how honoured and grateful he is to be taking over this role.

“It is really exciting, this is my dream job – the minute I walked into the LRH I thought I would really love to lead this organisation,” Mr McRae said.

“It is so full of great people, the potential here is just enormous, we are growing massively and the team here are really supportive as well as open to new ideas and trying new things – all the values of the LRH around person centeredness, integrity and working together are strongly aligned with my personal values.

“Starting in this role is something I have really been looking forward to and I cannot wait to work with the team to take the LRH to even higher levels of performance than we have experienced so far.”

Mr McRae described his 38-year journey to get this point.

“I come from a nursing background so I spent a number of years in the clinical area becoming an expert in both midwifery and critical care nursing, working in a number of hospitals in rural Victoria from Wangaratta to Horsham while also working in large metropolitan hospitals as well,” he said.

“I spent 25 years in the Wimmera Health Care Group, starting as manager of the emergency department where we would go out with the ambulances to retrieve victims of car accidents and disasters – so it has been a really good growth for me to go through that before moving into the operations side of things and gaining experience there.”

“I have got a really good grounding and understanding of how the system works, and that has really helped position me to take on a role like this.”

Following on from the 12-year tenure of Mr Craighead, he detailed just how much of an impact the outgoing CEO had on both the hospital and himself.

“He has left the organisation in a really great place, the culture is really healthy, we are working for each other and I think that the hospital is in a fantastic position both financially and clinically thanks to him,” he said.

“We have the beginnings of a really good cardiology service, our cancer service is growing out into the region and we have got other regional services such as palliative care that we are building as well – so he has really put down some fantastic building blocks for us to move into the future.

“Personally, he has bestowed some great messages on me around equally disadvantaging everybody, making sure you are firm but fair and having an understanding of what is going on within the organisation – you can’t be 100 per cent sure what you are saying up in the executive office is happening on the floor, so as we used to do together I will continue to walk the floor on a regular basis and get to know the people working throughout every aspect of the hospital.”

Mr McRae spoke of the traits that he believes made him the perfect candidate to undertake the important and high-profile position.

“I wasn’t as surprised as I was humbled (when I heard I would be taking over as CEO), I know what a fantastic place this is and that this would be a very highly sought after position with a very competitive field,” he said.

“I have been here for three years working alongside Peter, learning how the business
operates and how the teams relate to each other and had a really good understanding of what the board wanted moving forward.

“The biggest thing I believe (that helped me get this job) is I have experienced the whole health system – the other features that makes me a different CEO is I am very grounded in building relationships and getting to know people, I am very good at developing high performing teams and I like for my organisation to be the best at what it does.”

As he embarks on his dream job, he outlined the legacy he hopes to leave on the LRH as its CEO.

“I think the biggest legacy I would like to leave is that people through our community and the entirety of Gippsland can look at our health service and be really proud of it, we are for the community and for Gippsland so if we aren’t serving them and making them proud we are not doing our job,” he said.

“I also want our employees to come to work and really enjoy what they are doing and be part of the organisation, I say this to people all the time whether they are the reception staff or the senior consultants, everything they do matters and they are what makes the organisation great with my job being to steer them in the right direction.”