Aotearoa New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield — the man who has tirelessly steered the country’s covid-19 pandemic response for the past two years — is stepping down from his role at the end of July.
Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes revealed Dr Bloomfield’s decision in a statement today.
Dr Bloomfield had signalled to the commissioner late last year he intended to step down before his term officially ended on 11 June 2023, Hughes said.
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Speaking at today’s media briefing, Dr Bloomfield said he was most proud of the way the health system and public service had worked so well together to protect the public.
He said the three previous director-generals had also ended their five-year terms early, and he had been thinking for a while about when would be a good time to step down.
“It seems we’re at a good point in terms of the pandemic, the response is shifting, I’m also confident that the system is in good hands with the changes that are afoot, and most certainly my family will be very pleased to have a little more of my time.”
The Ministry of Health today reported 12,575 new community cases of covid-19, with 654 people in hospital and 15 further deaths. Twenty three people were in intensive care, down from 30 yesterday.
Commissioner Hughes said Dr Bloomfield had done an outstanding job leading the government’s health response to covid-19 and the vaccination rollout.
“Dr Bloomfield has worked tirelessly for more than two years to keep New Zealanders safe from coronavirus,” Hughes said.
“Dr Bloomfield has demonstrated remarkable resilience and courage in leading the health system’s overall response to Covid-19. That response has saved lives.
“I thank Dr Bloomfield for his commitment to public service, his spirit of service to the community and his exceptional contribution to New Zealand’s covid-19 response. I know many New Zealanders will also be thankful for the job he has done.”
Hughes said Dr Bloomfield wanted to stay on until the country had a good hold on the virus, and that time was now.
In a post on Facebook, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Bloomfield had been a true public servant in every sense, through his dedication, drive and calmness.
“He has been central to our COVID success as a nation, and he’s done it with humour and grace (I’ll keep the details of his sporadic mockery of me to myself!),” she said.
“When we spoke about his decision to move on, he mentioned that he wanted to spend time with his family, and that’s the least we owe him. So kia ora from across the Motu, Dr Bloomfield. We thank you.”
‘Give the man a beer’
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins also posted on Facebook after the news was released, acknowledging Bloomfield for being a “reassuring figure” through the pandemic response.
“The amount of pressure he’s absorbed, and the level of commitment he’s shown over the past two years make that an easy decision to understand.
“We thank you Ashley for all you’ve done to keep us all safe. Give the man a beer, he’s truly earned it!”
As a Minister I want to thank Dr Bloomfield for advising the Govt on some of the most important decisions taken in peacetime.
As a doctor I want to acknowledge @AshBloomfield as a colleague who has made an unparalleled contribution to protecting the health of New Zealanders.
— Ayesha Verrall (@drayeshaverrall) April 5, 2022
An acting director-general will be appointed before Bloomfield finishes on 29 July, 2022.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.