New DHB boss to face hard issues

RACHEL THOMAS
Last updated 05:00 30/05/2014

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Whoever the incoming chief executive of Waikato District Health Board turns out to be - their first day will be less about being shown the toilets and more about dealing with the stink left by a damning report from the Ministry of Health.

One of the criticisms of the Ministry of Health's recent report on Waikato DHB was the board's executive leadership team "does not appear to operate well as a collective".

While the leadership team has kept quiet on the report, chief executive Craig Climo has spoken publicly and taken full responsibility for the failings.

When elected board member Clyde Wade was asked how he thought communications could be improved, he diverted responsibility to the future chief executive officer.

"That's something we will leave up on the agenda for the next CEO to pick up in terms of structure."

He was not alone in passing the buck to the new boss when Waikato Times approached the board's 11 members yesterday to get their response to the report and how they could fix things. It's up to the new chief executive, they all said.

"My understanding is the report was prepared for when Craig goes - this is something for the new board CEO to sink his teeth into," said board member Pippa Mahood.

Board chairman Bob Simcock said the members had discussed the report on May 23, and members had spoken about it informally since then.

"The board was briefed by the Ministry of Health and had an extensive discussion on that Friday."

He said Climo would depart around August 1.

"Craig has indicated a willingness to be flexible. We haven't locked in a date but it will be on or around August 1."

There was a chance the role would not be filled by then, in which case a temporary chief executive would be appointed, Wade said.

"We don't have any idea who that might be or where they will come from, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it."

Simcock indicated a replacement might be found in three months.

"I need to be careful about commenting on that, we maybe have someone that can be here in three months, but that's all I can really tell you at this stage."

Member Sharon Mariu said an interim chief executive would be vital if the position was not filled.

"There are a number of issues but you can't leave the head job vacant for any significant point of time in an organisation of that size, it just wouldn't work," Mariu said. "You have got to have someone."

Deputy chairwoman Sally Christie rebuffed the report's claim there was a communication problem at the board.

"I think we are communicating well and I look forward to that continuing and appreciate Craig's contribution and his team."

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So how much of a mountain will the incoming boss have to deal with?

"I don't think it should be viewed that way," said member Crystal Beavis.

"Health is a complex area to manage - health boards and PHOs are big, complex organisations."

Member Martin Gallagher said the report painted in black and white the good and bad aspects of the work the DHB was doing.

"As a board member, I'm not closing my eyes and ears to the challenges facing us, and I assure you we will be addressing the issues."

"I like that word ‘opportunities' [in the report's title] for the future'," said Gallagher.

When asked about the negative aspects of the report - which criticised the flow of patients through hospital services, communication between the board's leadership team and an overly complex organisational structure - members were quick to say they stood by Climo and had complete faith in him.

"From my point of view, we have a cohesive, competent management team who are supporting world-class technicians in providing good health outcomes," member Ewan Wilson said.

"You have got to remember the hospital has been the biggest construction site in Australasia for the last 10 years."

Tania Hodges said the report did not contain any surprises and was quick to shine the light on positive findings.

"I don't think there was anything bad in there really - there are lots of good things going on in the DHB."

Mariu added the ministry provided one angle on a complex organisation.

"You have got to take it on board but it's only one perspective."

Waikato Times left messages with board members Gay Shirley, Andrew Buckley and current chief executive Craig Climo - all who did not respond by deadline yesterday.

- Waikato Times

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