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Ash cash banned in Timaru

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 15/11/2012
Chris Fleming
NATASHA MARTIN/ Fairfax NZ
SCDHB's departying chief executive Chris Fleming

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Hospital doctors in Timaru are not lining their pockets by charging grieving families for cremation certificates, South Canterbury District Health Board (SCDHB) chief executive Chris Fleming says.

His comments comes after it was revealed that families are being invoiced for cremation certificates with doctors using the proceeds for barbecues, televisions and other perks.

A Fairfax Media investigation published yesterday showed how doctors in many district health boards are pooling tens of thousands of dollars a year by charging "ash cash" fees, on top of their salaries, with the bonus revenue used to fund social events.

The money is collected within the DHBs by junior doctors' social clubs, and they are entitled to spend that money however they wish.

Mr Fleming says doctors at Timaru Hospital were charging for the service when he arrived at the SCDHB five years ago.

"When I found out the process was there I put a stop to it.

"I don't support it; I just think it's not right and I personally think it should be stopped."

Critics have called the process ghoulish and inappropriate.

Some of the larger DHBs - Capital & Coast, Auckland, Counties Manukau, and Waikato - now refuse to charge the fees.

Deborah Powell, national secretary of the New Zealand Resident Doctors' Association says doctors in those DHBs that continued to bill for "ash cash" should be congratulated on how they are spending their perks.

"They're choosing to use it for the collective good, and I think they should be congratulated for that. They could take the money and bank it, but they're not."

The cremation certificates take doctors about 10 minutes to fill out. They are done during doctors' regular work hours and are a prescribed part of their job.

They verify bodies are suitable for cremation and note whether potentially explosive pacemakers have been removed.

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- The Timaru Herald

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