Chief executive: ‘It has been a great privilege working for you’

Chief executive of Western Sydney Local Health District, Danny O’Connor.

Penned by Western Sydney Local Health District chief executive, Danny O’Connor

My time working for you is coming to an end. In October I will take leave before retiring from NSW Health. I am very fortunate this has been my last appointment. It has been a great privilege working for you these past eight years, during a time of enormous change and opportunity in western Sydney.

We have a very important place in society. Many people rely on us to help them, or their loved ones. Sometimes their time with us is short, sometimes longer. Sometimes it is joyous, sometimes challenging, sometimes tragic. My time in various roles in community health and hospital care, in metropolitan Sydney and western NSW has brought me into contact with many wonderful people.

Danny O’Connor attends a symposium at Blacktown Hospital. Pictured: Danny with forensic unit medical examiner Dr Maria Nittis and Professor Michael Edye.

I have experienced up close the people who care for others. I am aware of the demands placed on many clinicians and teams, scientists and academics. I have participated in many robust discussions and some conflicts about work pressures, change and resource availability. And through this I have observed enormous generosity of spirit. Most people have recognised the sometimes limited degrees of freedom I have to work within, and the broad range of stakeholders to manage, some with competing priorities.  And most have forgiven me the mistakes I have made, I trust because they believe I did not lack the will to do better.

I have met all sorts of consumers – people! In community and hospital roles I saw that drug dependence and mental illness affects all corners and strata of society. It is immensely regrettable to me that we collectively fail to have sufficient sympathy for these afflictions, even though they are so common amongst us. I learned that the aesthetic, functionality and health of dentition is critically important to psychological and physical wellbeing of people of all ages.

Danny - chief executive
Western Sydney Local Health District chief executive Danny O’Connor visited nurses to praise their work.

In my hospital roles, mostly before my current role, I often visited a couple of patients in the evening, several days of the week. This brought a strong human dimension to my administrative duties. It also made me aware of the great diversity of people’s personal lives and circumstances we reach. Patients on a cardiology or geriatric ward are not “heart conditions” or “old”. They are people, often with very different life stories.

With complete sincerity I say that every success I have been associated with is because of the teams I have worked with. I extend my sincere gratitude to everyone who has worked with me. I also wish to recognise the immeasurable contribution of a wide range of other people to my work and that of my teams. People from universities, primary healthcare, many government agencies and authorities, non-government organsations, private industry and commerce and more. This is not intended to be just a list. It is a small attempt to recognise the huge contribution of so many people to my work here.

Danny O’Connor receives an update on the Westmead Redevelopment project. The visionary developments of Blacktown Hospital and the Westmead health precinct are two examples of Danny’s leadership achievements. Pictured: Multiplex site manager Ben De Bon, Pezzementi crew supervisor Luke Raward, Multiplex project director Brendan Sweeney with Danny O’Connor.

I have enjoyed tremendous support from the teams in the Ministry of Health under the leadership of Deb Picone, Mary Foley and Elizabeth Koff. They have supported me, and us, through good times and bad. During most of the past eight years I received the wise counsel and guidance of Steve Leeder and the board he led. It is difficult to overstate the significance of the contribution of the board as we emerged from a restructure of the NSW Health system in 2010, a change of government shortly thereafter and a broad range of organisational challenges during our earlier years as a health district. And the current board, under the leadership of Richard Alcock is providing strong governance in fully realising our extraordinary opportunities at this time in the history of western Sydney.

Thank you to the teachers who have influenced me and developed whatever strengths I have. These people extend from my early years to the present. They are very diverse in their characters and backgrounds. And yet so similar in the generosity they extended in teaching me many and varied lessons of thought and craft.

Western Sydney wins top award for diabetes initiative
Danny O’Connor accepts an award commending Western Sydney Local Health District’s diabetes initiative from the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Chairman of the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue in 2017.

And this brings me to my final plea to you. Be generous to each other. Our work is often hard and demanding. It is complicated by the fact that much of it involves us interacting with the heightened fears and hopes of fellow human beings. Be interested in and celebrate each other’s successes and offer support when support is needed. We are a human services business. Maintain your humanity, always.