Health bosses silent over critical report

They are the heads of a publicly-owned organisation with an annual budget of $1.2 billion and 6200 staff but they don't want to talk to us.

The 12-member senior management team at the Waikato District Health Board have closed ranks following yesterday's story in the Waikato Times about a Ministry of Health report highly critical of the organisation.

In spite of repeated attempts to obtain comment from communications director Mary Anne Gill and the other members of the board's executive leadership team to get their views on the report, they refused to front up.

Part of that report, which is available for the public to read on the health board's website, faults the board's executive leadership team for a lack of visibility to staff.

In an extraordinary move, chief executive Craig Climo asked the Times not to contact each of the 11 other members of the health board's executive leadership team for their views on the report.

"You can create a lot of damage by putting them in the paper," he said. "You are creating victims.

"I'm happy to be the accountable person. Let's not nail 10 people to the cross."

Those 10 people are Gill, chief operating officer Jan Adams, chief financial officer Maureen Chrystall, board governance director Neville Hablous, chief information officer Darrin Hackett, nursing and midwifery director Sue Hayward, planning and funding general manager Brett Paradine, Te Puna Oranga (Maori health) general manager Ditre Tamatea, chief medical adviser Tom Watson, and building programme director Ian Wolstencroft.

The 11th role of human resources general manager is soon to be vacant, following the resignation earlier this month of Fiona McCarthy, who will take up a similar role at the Waitemata District Health Board.

The ministry report noted the executive team were "not always visible as leaders of the organisation, to provide consistent direction and support and to facilitate the difficult discussions.

"There is a perceived need for the executive leadership team to 'pull it all together' and to reflect an integrated approach rather than the perception of a culture which sees the hospital and the remainder of the DHB separately.

"The incoming chief executive will need to build a culture of collaboration at all levels through strong and effective communication, clinical governance, relationship building and robust accountability frameworks.

"In turn, the executive team members need to be visible leaders of the organisation, modelling collective ownership of a strategic direction and actively engaging in the hard conversations with the rest of the organisation."

Hard conversations with the media were also difficult to achieve yesterday.

The result of repeated requests for interviews with each of the team members was a short statement issued by Gill, following an afternoon meeting attended by each of the executive leadership team members.

"The CEO's direct reports, the clinical and management teams at Waikato DHB are all committed to improving health outcomes for our people.

"Craig has provided leadership in support of our organisation for seven years and in turn we support him."

Gill earlier told the Times the DHB staff who were interviewed for the ministry report may not have understood what they were being asked.

"We have never been called the executive leadership team, so when staff were asked if the executive leadership team was visible - I suspect they may well have not known what that meant.

"On our website we are called the direct reports and that is what we consider we are."

The ministry report found plenty of fault elsewhere within the health board, including too many managers, staff kept in the dark, needlessly complex, poor communication between departments, no allowance for innovation and too-slow treatment of patients. Earlier, Gill said the report "didn't tell us anything we didn't know.

"It has given us an opportunity to enhance or consider programmes of work to allow us to fully implement the report and its actions.

"We had identified a significant number of the 23 recommendations and work was already under way."

Waikato Times