Ensuring that South Australia marshalled the necessary health resources throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was the key responsibility of Dr Christopher McGowan (PhD(HlthSc) ’17).
As Chief Executive of the South Australian Department for Health and Wellbeing from 2018 until March 2022, Dr McGowan handled this difficult task with aplomb, although humbly said he was happy to have worked in the shadows of SA Chief Public Health Officer Professor Nicola Spurrier and SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens.
The enormity of this task included quick and efficient response to testing for COVID-19, tracing capabilities, quarantine and medi-hotel programs, plus escalating responses appropriately to scale –while simultaneously keeping all other areas of the state’s health system running smoothly.
“If it all fits together, nobody notices – and that means we’ve done our job. Despite the obvious challenges we’ve needed to address, I really consider it an honour to have been in this role through the pandemic,” says Dr McGowan. “It has resulted in great change penetrating deep into the whole health care network.”
Dr McGowan came to this role in 2018, having earlier worked in the disability sector to address structural and operational issues, providing economic efficiency while advancing opportunities for people living with a disability.
In his next role with SA HealthPlus, he played a significant role in Australian coordinated care trials that tested improved health outcomes – without increasing the costs of usual care. The ground-breaking initiatives that resulted continue to inform national and international efforts to improve health care outcomes.
Chris was CEO of Noarlunga Health Service and was initially CEO for Southern Adelaide Health service when Boards were first established in the 2000s.
Later, he was CEO of Silver Chain for 10 years, an organisation based in Perth responsible for community aged care, acute care in the community and improving the experience of those dying at home, where he introduced technology that enabled highly sophisticated simulations of the GP interaction to be conducted in the patient’s home. Over ten years Silver Chain became a national organisation incorporating RDNS here in SA.
This work tied into Dr McGowan’s doctoral studies at Flinders University that focused on the cost of efficient and effective end-of-life care.
Dr McGowan’s deep commitment to the health and social needs of others is underlined by seven annual visits made by him and his wife to a remote and desperately poor Cambodian village, where they engage in hands-on construction of houses and community facilities, and provide financial assistance for local public health workers.
“We haven’t been able to go since February 2020, and we’re anxious to return,” he says. “What all the volunteers do in Cambodia sends a strong message to the poorest people that they are cared for and valued.”
Dr Christopher McGowan received a 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award for his distinguished contribution to the health and human services sectors for over 30 years through professional and humanitarian activities. Read more on the Flinders University Alumni Awards