Gold Coast infectious diseases expert John Gerrard has been named as Queensland’s next chief health officer.
- Dr Gerrard was the first in Queensland to treat a COVID patient
- His appointment comes after Krispin Hajkowicz decided against taking up the job last month
- Dr Peter Aitken will remain acting in the role until next month
Dr Gerrard, currently the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service infectious diseases director, will be the permanent replacement for Jeannette Young, who was in the position for 16 years, but became Queensland Governor earlier this month.
Dr Gerrard said what Queensland had accomplished during the pandemic was “quite extraordinary”, being able to keep out the virus and allow time for the community to be vaccinated.
“It really is a profound honour to be asked to take on the role of the chief health officer of Queensland,” Dr Gerrard said at a press conference this morning.
“It is also a deep and concerning responsibility to take on this role at this time, but I am heartened and the responsibility is made lighter because of the actions of Queenslanders over the last 24 months.”
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Dr Gerrard was the first in Queensland to treat a COVID patient.
“I think many people will know how much of a crucial role [Dr Gerrard] has played, especially with the Gold Coast University Hospital Infectious Unit, where he has seen firsthand and treated some of the very first patients that caught COVID in Queensland,” she said.
“He was also instrumental in dealing with the COVID virus outbreak on the Diamond Princess, which was off the coast of Tokyo.
“I am absolutely delighted and I think Queenslanders should be absolutely delighted.”
Krispin Hajkowicz, who was initially named as Dr Young’s replacement, decided against taking up the chief health officer position days before he was expected to begin.
Ms Palaszczuk said Peter Aitken would remain Acting Chief Health Officer until Dr Gerrard takes up the position.
“We have been very fortunate in Queensland to have the services of Dr Young for our chief health officer and can I thank Dr Aitken for his work and he will be continuing as Acting Chief Health Officer until the middle of December,” she said.
Dr Gerrard has background in infectious diseases research
Dr Gerrard has long researched emerging infectious diseases and vaccine development.
He was instrumental in design of the Gold Coast University Hospital to manage patients with highly infectious viruses like COVID.
Dr Gerrard said he was honoured to follow Dr Young.
“Dr Young showed the importance of implementing public health measures and being able to explain them in a way people could appreciate and understand,” he said.
“That has never been more important than now as we encourage people to get vaccinated before more cases arrive.”