New Zealand Medical Profession Loses Outstanding Leader

The New Zealand Medical Association is saddened to learn of the death of Dr Peter Foley, Chair of the NZMA for an historic two terms from 2007 until 2011.

“Dr Foley made an outstanding contribution to the NZMA and to strengthening our nation’s health service,” says Dr Paul Ockelford, the NZMA’s current Chair. “In his two terms as Chair of the NZMA he worked tirelessly to represent the medical profession and patients, raising awareness of a wide range of issues, including the need to address medical and wider health workforce shortages, ensuring the delivery of quality healthcare, improving health equity and advocating for better end-of-life care.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Dr Foley practised as a GP in Napier for over 25 years, after graduating from Otago University in 1981. He became president of the NZMA’s Hawke’s Bay division in 1999, was an inaugural member of the NZMA’s General Practice Council (GPC) in 1998, and then served two terms as Chair of the GPC before moving to chair the wider organisation. He was also the initial Chair of the General Practice Leaders Forum (GPLF).

“He worked tirelessly to represent our members and the wider medical profession,” says Dr Ockelford. “Pete represented the NZMA at overseas meetings and conferences, and the high regard in which he was held was shown when he was invited to be part of the NZ delegation to the World Health Assembly in 2010.”

Dr Foley’s particular contribution was in General Practice. He was at the forefront of the General Practice effort to seek meaningful engagement with the Government and its agencies during the debate over General Practice fees. The efforts of the initial GPLF team, led by Dr Foley, resulted in effect involvement for General Practice in the contracting process, and in a successful outcome – an achievement that was recognised when he was awarded the NZMA’s highest honour, the Chairman’s Award, in 2006 and an NZMA Fellowship in 2011. Further recognition followed – last year Dr Foley received the Member NZ Order of Merit for his services to health, which was presented in a special ceremony last month by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

After ending his term with the NZMA, Dr Foley continued his active role in the health sector with roles as Chief Medical Officer for primary care in the Hawkes Bay and Deputy Chair for the Health Quality and Safety Commission. He also headed the independent panel that reviewed health services in Queenstown and the surrounding area.

“Pete recognised that our health system requires the profession’s strong guidance and in striving to do this he researched the issues, engaged in consultation and worked towards achieving consensus,” says Dr Ockelford. “In his time as GPC Chair and NZMA Chair, he cultivated strong relationships within the medical profession, the Government and wider health sector. He was always a loyal NZMA member, and held a strong belief in the NZMA’s ability to make a difference, and have significant influence. He consistently promoted the hallmarks of the NZMA – its pan-professionalism, its ability to represent all sectors of the profession and its willingness to engage with all sectors within health.

“He will be sorely missed by his community and the wider profession. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”