Health Minister fires Hawke's Bay DHB
'Alarming abuse of political power' - former board chair
Health Minister David Cunliffe has sacked the Hawke's Bay District Health Board and called in government trouble shooter Sir John Anderson as commissioner.
The move, announced in Wellington this afternoon, comes after Mr Cunliffe gave the board a week to convince him why it should not be removed.
He said last week the threat was prompted by a "deteriorating situation" in the board's governance. Concerns included a projected $7.7 million deficit and poor relations between the board and Mr Cunliffe and the board and staff, including some medical staff.
The board was given till today to make submissions on why it should remain in place, but failed to sway Mr Cunliffe.
Kevin Atkinson, the board chair till the announcement, slammed Mr Cunliffe's decision as "an alarming abuse of political power".
"The people of Hawke's Bay will be outraged by this cynical removal of their democratically elected representatives, " he said.
He said a letter the board delivered to the minister on Tuesday would "convince any reasonable person that the Board was doing its job and doing it well."
"This move is punishment for the Board's refusal to endorse what was seen as political cronyism and chicanery and then to accept less than proper processes".
The appointment of Sir John is the second time in two months that he has been called in to oversee a troubled health board.
In December, he was made chairman of Capital and Coast DHB when Judith Aitken was sacked.
Sir John, who is famously private and media-shy, was made chairman of TVNZ after a series of high-profile controversies over staffing and other scandals. The bad publicity has subsided since he took the helm.
He retired as chief executive of ANZ National Bank in 2005, aged 60.
His appointment as commissioner - an extremely rare move in the health service - comes a day after a wrangle between the board and the Health Ministry over the release of a report into governance at the DHB hit the courts.
The board is applying for a judicial review of the report, which is expected to be critical of the DHB's governance, and has issued proceedings in the High Court.
Board chairman Kevin Atkinson said the board had issued proceedings in the High Court because it had "genuine concerns" in and around the time frame imposed by the review panel for response.
It was also concerned about the absence of material, which the board had asked for, which was "relevant and important" to its response.
That material had not been provided by the review panel and was also subject to a complaint being investigated by the Ombudsman, he said.
Mr Cunliffe's spokesman said the minister had not seen the draft report, which had been done for the director-general of health.
In July last year the Government ordered the ministry governance report, following a conflict of interest crisis involving board member Peter Hausmann and other issues.
The conflict allegations centred on a failed $50 million contract bid by a private company, Healthcare New Zealand, for community services funded by the DHB.
Mr Hausmann is managing director of the company.
After a whistleblower raised concerns about the conflict the company's bid was cancelled and the tender process was started again.
Mr Hausmann has denied doing anything wrong and said he declared his interest in the proper way.
He yesterday called on fellow board members to withdraw their legal proceedings so the findings of the eight-month review could be released as soon as possible.
Board room politics and inaccurate media reports had masked the serious healthcare issues facing the people of Hawke's Bay for far too long, Mr Hausmann said.
- with NZPA
- The Dominion Post
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