Top job at Gateway Health is a natural fit for Leigh Rhode

RURAL FOCUS: New chief executive Leigh Rhode said she was impressed with Gateway Health programs developed specifically for rural areas. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS
RURAL FOCUS: New chief executive Leigh Rhode said she was impressed with Gateway Health programs developed specifically for rural areas. Picture: SIMON BAYLISS

The new chief executive of Gateway Health is already impressed by the organisation’s “phenomenal projects” and plans to continue the innovation.

Leigh Rhode stepped into the top job three weeks ago, after spending 19 years as Goulburn Valley Health’s community and integrated care executive director, where she ran a similar range of programs.

She said a move to the Border was a natural fit.

“It’s a fantastic organisation – if you had your pick of all the community health services in Victoria to work with and for, this is the pick of the crop,” Ms Rhode said.

“There’s a very innovative, proactive vibe about the organisation so I couldn’t not consider this a golden opportunity to realise.”

She takes over from former CEO Leonard Peady, who worked in the role for 10 years.

The Hume region will have a more diverse client base than the centrally based Shepparton health service.

Ms Rhode will base herself between Wodonga and Wangaratta but said she wanted to understand the needs of people in small towns.

“I’ve always had a connection with a lot of the programs that are delivered in the whole of the Hume region,” she said. “A lot of our programs aren’t just based in the urban centres in Wodonga and Wangaratta, a lot of our staff are on the road providing outreach services and home-visiting services.

“We have quite a big region to cover and I think it’s important over time … I really want to get out and get a good feel for those communities.”

She may be a new face at the top, but Ms Rhode did not expect to make any big changes.

“You don’t want to come into an organistion like this and dabble at the edges until you really get a sense of its heartbeat, you get a sense of what makes it work so well and really understanding the communities that we’re working in,” she said.

“I would expect more consolidation of our drug and alcohol programs.

“There’s been significant growth in that area recently and I think there probably needs to be more in all of rural Victoria.”

The NDIS, aged care reforms, a new gender clinic and mental health programs were also some of the important areas for programs.

“A lot of our focus is really on the early intervention and prevention end, we have a fairly strong health promotion focus,” Ms Rhode said.