Health trustees asked to front-up

Te Rapuora was being monitored by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board for nearly two years before the Maori health provider announced it was closing because of financial problems, a public meeting was told yesterday.

Health board Maori health director Harold Wereta said the board had been reviewing performance levels at Te Rapuora but wasn't aware of its money issues. Some at the meeting demanded a showdown with the Te Rapuora board of trustees. "Where are they?" one woman shouted.

Another woman was reduced to tears on hearing about the plight of Marlborough's largest Maori health provider, which had served the Maori community for 26 years.

Mr Wereta said he would pass on their request for a face-to-face meeting with the Te Rapuora board of trustees.

He said it wasn't until Te Rapuora manager Aroha Metcalf was appointed in June and went through the organisation's books that the true extent of the problem became clear.

A routine three-year audit was done in October and the board decided to include a special financial audit, he said.

The health board met with the Te Rapuora board of trustees twice in November to express concerns they had about the financial stability of the health provider.

The trustees decided to close Te Rapuora the day after their second meeting, Mr Wereta said.

It will close on December 31 with services picked up by four other Maori health providers next year.

"We were working with the board [of trustees] trying to rectify issues relating to service performance," he said. "The audit combined with talks with the health board . . . the decision was made to shut."

Mr Wereta wouldn't reveal the extent of Te Rapuora's financial problems.

That was a question for the board of trustees, he said.

None of the trustees attended the two public meetings yesterday at St John Hall on Seymour St.

The meetings were held to update members of the public, Te Rapuora staff and clients on the transition of services to other Maori health providers.

The Marlborough Express