JOINT MEDIA RELEASE
Public Service Commissioner, Russell Thomas & Secretary of Health, Dr Josephine Aumea Herman
Thursday 24th December 2020
The Public Service Commissioner, Russell Thomas announced today that Dr Josephine Aumea Herman will be standing down as Secretary of Te Marae Ora Ministry of Health on Friday 25 December this year.
Thomas said the Government was grateful for Dr Herman’s tremendous contribution during her tenure as Secretary, beginning April 2018. Dr Herman who is a public health specialist, epidemiologist, general practitioner and experienced clinician, said her time in office had presented some significant challenges but also some real opportunities to improve health services and population health outcomes.
Both Thomas and Dr Herman acknowledge that “important achievements include: the restructure of the organisation, decentralisation of health services, and the introduction of advanced ICT platforms, pay parity and career pathways for the over 300 employees.”
Dr Herman said that the increase in the budget for Health two years ago allowed the Ministry to shift resources to address the dengue outbreak and the NCD epidemic and to lead the national health response to COVID-19. The Cook Islands remains COVID-19 free.
“The great challenge in health systems around the world is to move resources to primary care and preventative medicine,” said Dr Herman. The establishment of Community Health Clinics in each of the ten Puna on Rarotonga has empowered the community and helped meet the objective of providing universal health coverage to every Cook Islander. This would not have been possible without the support of the community and their leaders and the Ministry Community Health Advisory Committee, as well as the Ui Ariki and Religious Advisory Council.” Dr Herman said that although in its infancy, she hopes this initiative continues in the Cook Islands which will rely on the ongoing involvement of the community in Rarotonga and Pa Enua.
Dr Herman also wished to thank the Ministry staff for their dedication and loyalty in serving the health needs of the people of the Cook Islands. Moreover, the contribution of Cook Islanders and others who are health specialists living abroad also requires special mention. This includes medical professionals of Cook Islands descent residing in New Zealand like Dr Kiki Maoate, Dr Ted Hughes and Dr John Dunn.
Dr Herman stated that “she cannot depart without also recognizing the invaluable contribution of our international partners. The Governments of New Zealand and Australia, New Zealand Ministry of Health, Waitemata District Health Board, Mt Wellington Integrated Health Care, Pasifika Medical Association and international agencies like the World Health Organisation and the Pacific Community deserve special mention.
The Cook Islands and the New Zealand Government have throughout this year strengthened health co-operation through formal arrangements with the New Zealand Ministry of Health and Waitemata District Health Board. These talks are on-going and receiving priority consideration, in particular to the national COVID-19 response.
The Public Service Commissioner has started recruitment for the new Secretary, which will close on Thursday 24 December 2020 and he will appoint an interim Secretary to start on 26 December 2020. The Office of the Public Service Commissioner will work closely with the Ministry Senior Management team to ensure continuity in service delivery and support to staff during this transition period.
Dr Herman concluded, “It has been a privilege to hold the role of Secretary. While it has been demanding, it has been equally satisfying to be able to serve the people of the Cook Islands. “