Two senior executives in the Department of Health and Ageing are moving on.

Mary Murnane, a deputy secretary, is retiring. Her responsibilities have included the Office of Health Protection including Health Emergency; the Regulatory Policy and Governance Division with a special focus on: Therapeutics Goods Administration, Office of Gene Technology Regulator, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, Food Policy, Medical and Biological Research Policy, National Blood Authority as well as Ageing and Aged Care and Palliative Care.

She also has chaired the Australian Health Protection Committee which advises the Australian Health Ministers Council on emergency preparedness, and manages the emergency health component of national emergency.

Croakey’s contacts are not surprised by her departure: she joined the Commonwealth public service in 1984.

More interesting, they say, is the unexpected resignation of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, which was announced to department staff yesterday. A cancer specialist, he was previously Director of the Sydney Cancer Centre at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Concord Hospital in Sydney, Director of the Cancer Service for the Central Sydney Area Health Service, and from 2003 to April 2009, he was CEO of the Cancer Institute NSW and the Chief Cancer Officer for NSW.

Since taking on the CMO role about two years ago, Bishop has represented the department on no fewer than 25 committees. But his most high-profile role was during the swine flu pandemic, when he was often called upon to defend policies.

A spokeswoman for the department says Bishop is leaving for Melbourne, to take up a job with the new Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. He also wants to be closer to family in Melbourne, she says. Apparently, there will soon be a formal announcement (which I will add to the post).

All of which leaves Croakey wondering: Who will fill the vacancies? And in the case of the CMO role, will it be someone from a public health or primary health care background? That would send a timely signal…

This is the note that the Department’s Secretary, Jane Halton, sent staff yesterday afternoon.

It is with great regret that I announce our Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop AO, will be leaving the Commonwealth to return to Melbourne to be closer to family.

Originally educated at the University of Melbourne, Professor Bishop is one of Australia’s leading oncologists serving as a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Sydney, a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia in haematology. Immediately before he came to the DoHA, Professor Bishop was the Chief Cancer Officer for the NSW Department of Health and Chief Executive of the Cancer Institute NSW.

In his role as CMO in the Department of Health and Ageing, Professor Bishop continued to use his extensive experience as a cancer specialist making an invaluable contribution to our national cancer initiatives. He also took an active role in developing programs across a full range of medical and public health areas, not the least of which was his high profile contribution to the management of the H1N1 Pandemic in Australia in 2009.  In his role as CMO Professor Bishop forged valuable relationships with the wider medical fraternity and worked closely with state and territory Chief Health Officers to facilitate successful national health responses to communicable diseases, immunisation and health emergency management.

In his move to Victoria, Professor Bishop will once again draw on his oncology experience, taking up the positions of Executive Director of the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne Chair of Cancer Medicine.

The new Victorian CCC is a billion dollar plus joint venture with $426m in capital investment from each of the Victorian Government and the Commonwealth’s Health and Hospital Fund, and a further $219m capital investment from third parties.

The Victorian CCC brings together seven recognised institutions leading in research, cancer treatment and education, and training to create the largest clinical and research cancer centre in Australia.  When fully established it will have the largest concentration of cancer clinicians and researchers in the southern hemisphere ranking it among the top ten cancer centres in the world.

Professor Bishop says he is leaving the position of CMO with a heavy heart and that he wishes to pay tribute to the professional team at DoHA, especially the staff in the Office of Health Protection who he thanks for their leadership and dedication during the pandemic.  Professor Bishop also congratulates the Australian Government for pioneering initiatives in tobacco control and for its investment in health and hospital reform.

I wish to thank Professor Bishop for his considerable efforts and achievements as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and I know you will all join me in wishing him every success in his new life in Victoria and in his new job.

Professor Bishop will be leaving the department in May.


Update: And here is Jane Halton’s note to staff re Mary Murnane’s departure


Last night at the end of the Estimates Hearing I told the Senators that this would be Mary Murnane’s last Estimates.

Mary has told me of her decision to retire following a period of leave from the end of March.

Her first role was as Director of the Office of Child Care in 1985. Since that time Mary has provided exemplary service to countless ministers and has managed a number of our flagship programs and provided policy leadership across the portfolio.

Closer to Mary’s date of retirement I will send a further note. I will also be making arrangements with Mary for her to return on a part time basis providing policy, strategic analysis and assistance.

Jane Halton

Update: And here is Minister Roxon’s statement about Jim Bishop’s resignation.

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