By Mandy Te
Today, Dr Ashley Bloomfield fronted his 307th media stand up as he nears the end of his time as the Director-General of Health.
On Friday, Bloomfield will finish up as Director-General of Health. He’s become a household name, frequently appearing beside the Prime Minister during daily 1pm Covid-19 updates.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Bloomfield was praised for his work and, in many ways, became a local celebrity.
Hand towels with an embroidered image of him surrounded by love hearts were sold to the public and a shrine to “Saint Ashley Bloomfield” could be seen in the window of Wellington store Iko Iko.
At his last scheduled media conference, Bloomfield said there were 8730 new Covid-19 cases and 808 people in hospital with the virus.
A total of 1427 deaths are attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause or contributing factor.
Bloomfield also revealed he’d made directions under the Health Act to 14 local authorities to fluoridate some or all of their water supplies.
It is the first time this power has been used since the relevant legislation was amended last year to ensure a national approach to fluoridating water.
Speaking about his last week as Director-General of Health, Bloomfield said he felt honoured to have led the Ministry of Health as the country went through lockdowns and different variants of Covid-19.
He said he was confident in the people continuing to lead and deliver the country’s pandemic response.
“It’s very important we continue to maintain all the measures we’ve got in place for the time being, especially as we go through winter,” he said.
Bloomfield said “we tend to underestimate the resourcefulness of our communities”.
Providing resources and information can lead to enormous success and that’s how communities in New Zealand responded.
“The biggest healthcare workforce are our citizens and our job is sometimes to get out of the way.”
Bloomfield was also recognised with an Honorary Fellowship of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.
The honour is presented to individuals "who have made an outstanding contribution to general practice or the medical profession in general".
A member of the College nominated Bloomfield for his "tireless work as the Director-General of Health using evidence-based decision-making to inform the Government”.
In April, the Public Service Commission announced he was stepping down as Director-General of Health.
At the time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in an Instagram post that Bloomfield had been central to our Covid success as a nation, "and he’s done it with humour and grace".
"In every sense of the word - through his tireless dedication, his focus on people, his calm and considered approach - he has been a true public servant."
Bloomfield told her he wanted to spend more time with his family "and that’s the least we owe him", she said.
Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes said Bloomfield had done an "outstanding job leading the Government’s health response to Covid-19 and the vaccination rollout".
Hughes said Bloomfield worked tirelessly for more than two years to keep New Zealanders safe from coronavirus.
“Dr Bloomfield has demonstrated remarkable resilience and courage in leading the health system’s overall response to Covid-19. That response has saved lives.
“Dr Bloomfield always wanted to stay until New Zealand was in a good place with coronavirus. That time is now.”
Dr Diana Sarfati will be acting Director-General of Health and chief executive of the Ministry of Health until someone takes up the Director-General position.
Top Image: Dr Ashley Bloomfield at his last scheduled Covid-19 press conference on July 27,2022. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
His last day will be July 29.
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