Obituary: Dr Peter Foley


Dr Peter Foley The medical fraternity across Hawke's Bay, and the country, is mourning the passing of a man whose career was devoted to caring for people and making a difference.

Dr Peter James Francis Foley, 58, died on Monday, at his home, after several months of illness.

"Everybody who worked with him at the Hawke's Bay District Health Board is deeply saddened by his death," chief executive Dr Kevin Snee said.

"Peter had a passion for health and the health sector.

"He cared deeply about people and making a difference.

"He helped and cared for many in Hawke's Bay as a GP but he also had a strategic vision which is why he held so many roles in health not only in Hawke's Bay but also nationally," Dr Snee said.

"I had the utmost respect for Peter and for the work he did," Dr Snee said.

Dr Foley had long played a pivotal role as the chief medical officer of primary care for the district health board.

It was a role he cherished and his colleagues described his devotion to medicine and to advancing and integrating health services throughout the region, and the rest of the country, as "tireless".

He came from a family well steeped in medicine, being the third generation to take up the stethoscope.

After receiving his most recent of a string of accolades, the New Zealand Order of Merit in last year's Queen's Birthday Honours, Dr Foley said the work he strived to carry out, much of it behind the scenes, had been tough on his family.

In medicine, families did pay a price, he said, and in accepting the Order of Merit simply said "with thanks to the family".

Nationally, and internationally, Dr Foley had been at the forefront of health, pursuing the heartfelt philosophy of building and maintaining strong doctor-patient relationships and trust.

He also pursued team-based delivery of modern healthcare.

"Hugely, totally committed to health," was how a DHB colleague who had worked with Dr Foley summed him up.

Dr Foley served for four years as chairman of the New Zealand Medical Association and was its representative at several major international conferences.

He also chaired an international conference on tobacco control in 2007 and was an invited member of the New Zealand delegation to the World Health Assembly in Geneva in 2010.

His commitment was well recognised.

He received the New Zealand Medical Association's Chairman's Award for "outstanding" contributions to health.

He never sought the accolades, and when spoken to in the wake of being awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit last June he admitted to "a bit of tossing and turning" over whether to accept it or not.

Dr Foley was part of an independent panel reviewing health services in the Wakatipu region and was a senior medic with the police for 25 years.

He had practised at Central Medical in Napier and was also involved in looking after the medical needs of visiting sports teams - he was equally at home on the sports field sidelines as he was in a clinic or a high level meeting.

"The Hawke's Bay District Health Board wishes to extend its deepest sympathy to his family," Dr Snee said.

Dr Foley is survived by his wife Jill and children Lizzie, Simon, Katherine and Matt.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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