Ian Wolstencroft is a sharp-as-a-tack delegater, reports Louise Risk .
The man at the helm of the multimillion-dollar Waikato Hospital building project has an intimate knowledge of hospitals, having had an extended stay in one at the tender age of 14.
The year was 1956, and Ian Wolstencroft, an Australian by birth, was hospitalised for more than two months with polio.
"The Salk vaccine was introduced that year.
"I had one jab at Easter . . . you had to have three to be fully protected."
Mr Wolstencroft was struck before he had a chance to get his second or third jab.
He does not know if he would have got the debilitating virus regardless, or if the injected dose of what was marketed as inactivated (dead) poliovirus caused his polio.
And judging by the way he talks, he has no interest in finding out.
Fast-forward 56 years and Mr Wolstencroft's smooth complexion belies his 70 years, his tack-sharp mind completes his younger-man disguise.
"It's a good thing really, otherwise people would be saying "What an old bugger he is".
Mr Wolstencroft, who walks with crutches or uses a wheelchair, is the type of person who just gets on with the job at hand, and right now that means getting Waikato Hospital's Meade Clinical Centre completed on time and on budget.
While many of his school peers went on to do internships with various Australian state-owned companies, eventually becoming engineers and the like, Mr Wolstencroft needed an office job, and settled on accounting.
But after beginning his hospital career in administration at Western General Hospital in Melbourne in 1963, he realised his healthcare insight could take him further.
"I decided there had to be a career in hospitals."
He eventually rose to the position of chief executive at that hospital, and during his time in Victoria he also studied hospital development, amalgamated hospitals and oversaw the construction of new ones.
In 1995, the Auckland District Health Board did New Zealand a favour, and recruited Mr Wolstencroft across the ditch to amalgamate four of the board's hospitals and to re-organise the administrative and clinical structures at Auckland Hospital.
Nine years later, with that project nearing completion, Mr Wolstencroft got the call south to take on the building project manager role for the Waikato DHB - at both their Thames and Waikato hospitals.
Many of his "A team" made the move with him, and with his reputation preceding him, Mr Wolstencroft says new people he meets through his work see him, not his wheelchair or crutches.
"I've never had that issue but I know from my own observations of others that it can be an issue."
As fortune would have it, before the Waikato opportunity came up Mr Wolstencroft and his wife, a British ex-pat nurse whom he met in Auckland, had bought a lifestyle block halfway between Auckland and Hamilton, making the transition easy.
He lives in a house in Hamilton during the week, and enjoys helping his wife with her horse breeding interest at the weekend.
Unlike some project managers who have a construction background and are focused on the physical aspects of the build, a lifetime of experience has made Mr Wolstencroft an excellent delegater.
As long as the job is done to the required standard in the allocated time, and, of course, on budget, Mr Wolstencroft is a happy man.
"I'm more interested in outcomes than being involved in the input," he says.
"Because of my financial background I always keep a close watch on the costs."
His cheeky comments suggest he throws a good dose of humour in the mix along the way.
At the official opening of the Meade Clinical Centre earlier this month, he was tongue-in-cheek about the input of staff in designing the hospital.
"We've had to put up with hundreds and hundreds of nurses, all of whom know how to build a hospital, and dozens and dozens of doctors who know more about building a hospital than anyone else."
But jokes aside, he says he has had dozens of "user group" meetings with nurses, doctors and technical employees to ensure the new centre has the best function and form possible.
His wife's input had also been invaluable.
Looking back to his own hospital stint, he is pleased that today's hospitals are designed with the people who work and stay in them in mind.
"The hospitals of the 50s and 60s were built at the behest of hospital architects."
He says multiple patients per room and "nice corridor toilets and showers" were the norm back then.
"Today we all expect privacy, and rightly so, in my view," he said.
With technology changing so rapidly, and Mr Wolstencroft learning from every project he does, he says Waikato Hospital's new clinic will be a step up on Auckland's.
But not to get Waikato folk too excited, he quickly adds the technology in the planned Christchurch hospital will be a step ahead again.
"The technology today is 1000 per cent more than what it might have been back in the 50s."
With his current contract due to expire next June, you might expect Mr Wolstencroft to be looking to retire.
But he is coy about what he might do if a call for a building project manager comes through from Christchurch, and even mentions that Dunedin, one of his favourite travelling destinations, is thinking about an upgrade, too.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Are you happy for the Chiefs to be called the Gallagher Chiefs from 2016