New CEO, fresh start for primary health’s hottest spot

5 minute read

It’s been a tough couple of years for this PHN, but it's hoped a new CEO brings a new beginning.

Northern Queensland PHN will be hoping the appointment of a new CEO this week will help settle the dust on what has been a rocky period for the network. 

Sean Rooney, former CEO of Leading Age Services Australia and non-executive director of McLean Care, has been named as the new boss of the wash at NQPHN effective from last Monday.  

He takes over from former CEO Robin Whyte’s, who decided not to renew her contract “so she can relocate to be closer to family”. 

NQPHN board chair Terry Mehan said Mr Rooney had extensive executive leadership experience in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. 

“Sean has a demonstrated track record of achievement as a CEO, designing and successfully executing strategy, effectively managing stakeholder engagement in complex and contested environments, and leading people and organisations through times of change,” said Mr Mehan. 

“He brings practical experience where the health and aged care sectors meet and has served as CEO of member-based organisations, the Australian Medical Local Alliance and LASA. 

“The board and I welcome Sean to NQPHN and look forward to working closely with him to lead an organisation that is focused on helping northern Queenslanders live happier, healthier, longer lives.” 

Early in 2022, NQPHN hit the headlines when the resignation of two of its board members – current president of the RACGP, Dr Nicole Higgins and another GP, Dr Toni Weller – triggered a government investigation into its governance. 

A group of 250 local GPs also threatened a boycott, following the PHN’s involvement with the controversial North Queensland pharmacy prescribing trial. 

Late in February 2022, the board chair at the time, Nick Loukas, resigned. Mr Loukas had represented the PHN on the expert steering group set up by Queensland Health to help devise, implement and evaluate the rollout of the controversial pharmacy prescribing trial. 

However, it emerged he was the joint owner of a pharmacy chain called Alive Pharmacy Warehouse Group, which owned pharmacies where the pilot was due to be rolled out. The company’s other co-owner was Professor Trent Twomey, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s national president. 

The following month NQPHN withdrew its support for the prescribing trial.  

Mr Mehan took over as chair of board and has a history as a “fixer”, having previously been appointed as administrator of the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service. 

He is a former senior health advisor for PwC (2013-2014) and former deputy director of general system policy and performance with Queensland Health (1999-2013). 

Mr Rooney said he was honoured to step into the role of CEO at NQPHN. 

“I am looking forward to building on the strong foundations already in place, strengthening stakeholder and partner relationships, and working with the NQPHN team on improving the health outcomes for all North Queenslanders,” he said. 

“It’s my belief that healthcare should be accessible to all, and my focus will be to work with our teams, stakeholders, and communities to achieve the goals of the organisation.” 

Mr Rooney commenced as NQPHN CEO on Monday 6 November and is based in Townsville. NQPHN also has offices in Cairns and Mackay. 

Which PHNs are collecting gongs for their programs?

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Hunter New England and Central Coast PHN 

The PHN has been given funding by DoHAC to pilot the Supporting Recovery program and is looking for providers to deliver the two components of the program – specific domestic, family and sexual violence trauma-informed care coordination and case management (Local Care Teams), and specific DFSV trauma-informed mental health services. 

“The successful provider/s will provide specific DFSV trauma-informed care coordination and case management and/or specific trauma-informed mental health services to victim-survivors of DFSV as part of their longer-term recovery,” said the PHN’s commissioning site. 

Services are expected to be established by July 2024. 

“With high rates of DFSV in Moree and the Central Coast regions, the PHN nominated these regions as pilot sites in the grant application. This funding forms part of a suite of initiatives to reduce all forms of DFSV and supports the implementation of the National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-23.” 

For more information, click here, or contact Mary-Anne Whitworth at  

North Western Melbourne PHN 

NWMPHN is looking for a GP from the local government areas of Melbourne, Merri-bek or Yarra to join its GP expert advisory group. 

GPs who are new to practice, emerging leaders, or who have already worked with NWMPHN are all encouraged to apply. No previous experience in clinical leadership, advisory groups or primary health networks is needed. Applications close at 5pm on Friday 17 November. 

For more information and to apply, download the application form (.docx)  

Brisbane South PHN 

Griffith University is seeking GPs, health policy academics, health policymakers, hospital directors and consumer representatives to participate in four short surveys about digital health. 

These surveys aim to build consensus among stakeholders on how digitally delivered healthcare and monitoring should be funded, monitored and managed for people with chronic conditions. 

The results will be used to establish recommendations for the Australian government to support the sustainability of these services. 

For more information contact  

Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN 

DDWMPHN’s very successful “Talk About” series of community engagement events is continuing with the launch of its latest survey on natural and other disaster preparedness. 

From 31 October to 12 December, the PHN wants to hear from community members and healthcare providers about their experiences of healthcare during disasters.  

For more information, click here

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