There was a great big grey elephant sitting in the boardroom inside the Hockin Building at Waikato Hospital yesterday afternoon.
But none of the Waikato District Health Board members were talking about it.
That unmentionable pachyderm came in the form of a Ministry of Health report highly critical of the organisation.
Although that report noted some areas in which the health board was performing well, the bulk of the 47-page document was a litany of areas in need of improvement, including a surfeit of managers, staff kept in the dark, needlessly complex, poor communication between departments, no allowance for innovation and unacceptable delays in the treatment of patients.
Another point made against the board was the poor visibility of the top echelon of the organisation's management to its staff.
And while the board's top brass and its elected members were all present at yesterday's meeting, at no time did they mention the ministry report during the two hours and 45 minutes when it was open to the public and the press.
While it is possible the ministry report was discussed in the public-excluded section of the meeting, it was conspicuous by its absence in the time the Waikato Times was allowed to be present at the meeting.
The apparent code of silence surrounding the matter is a continuation of the defensive stance the board has taken since the health board posted it on its website a week ago. With the exception of chief executive Craig Climo, the board's executive management team - or "direct reports", as they refer to themselves - have declined to respond to Times' inquiries asking them whether the ministry's criticisms were warranted and, if so, what could be done to improve the areas in which fault had been found.
Earlier this week board chairman Bob Simcock told the Times that his position denoted him as the spokesman of its elected members.
"They speak through me," he said.
It was Simcock who requested the ministry appraisal in March as a means of getting "an informed snapshot" of where the organisation was "through fresh but expert eyes".
The reviewers were on site for six weeks, three days a week. The team comprised Ministry of Health disability general manager Toni Atkinson; Counties Manukau District Health Board orthopaedic surgeon Richard Street; Waitemata nurse Jocelyn Peach; management consultant and former rheumatologist Mike Corkill; and former Consumer NZ chief executive David Russell.
The full report is available for the public to read on the health board's website - waikatodhb.health.nz/about-us/key-publications/
- Waikato Times