Transparency key to new boss' philosophy

17:00, Jun 20 2014

Waikato District Health Board's new chief executive has promised transparency will be part of his management philosophy.

Dr Nigel Murray was unanimously appointed chief executive by the district's health board yesterday morning.

He will replace departing Craig Climo, who announced his exit in December last year. Climo will officially finish on July 18 before Murray starts on July 21.

Murray is available to return to New Zealand after he resigned as the chief executive and president of Canadian health organisation Fraser Health. Before that he fleetingly served as chief executive of the Southland District Health Board and as planning and development manager at the Auckland District Health Board.

In November, Canadian news website news1130 reported that British Columbia's health minister Terry Lake had ordered a review of Fraser Health to sort out its budgeting difficulties.

DHB chairman Bob Simcock said the board was "explicit" in its investigations of Murray's past at both Southland and Fraser Health in Canada.


"The board is adamant there was nothing suspect about Nigel's departure in Southland, and the board in British Columbia have assured us that the review into Fraser [Health] has nothing to do with Nigel's performance - it is about trying to understand the cost structures and how funds have been allocated in the BC health system," Simcock said.

Murray responded to allegations that he mishandled union disputes in Southland in 2006 and 2007.

"Any leader has to learn . . . all I know is to be successful as a leader you have to engage people and as my career has advanced that has been the heart of success," he said.

Last month's Ministry of Health report slamming the organisation's management structure, transparency and inter-department communications did not concern Murray.

"It provides some insight into the voices inside the organisation . . . and it has some ideas and innovations that we can potentially look at," he said.

But Murray was reluctant to commit to how those innovative ideas might manifest until his "feet were under the desk".

"I want to work with staff to get my head around their engagement, and once I have done that I will start to collate my own ideas."

Murray said the organisation appeared to be well established from the few visits he had made to Waikato Hospital.

"The health board has just gone through a very large rebuild phase and that is mostly over, now it is time to focus on the shop floor. That includes clinicians, nursing staff and allied health professions - the whole team."

Despite the speculation surrounding Murray's appointment he believed staff would be "surprised" by his leadership style.

"In terms of my philosophy, one of the great strengths of the legislation that creates DHB is they have an opportunity to co-ordinate a whole-of-system approach to health that spans from birth to death."

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said he had to base his perception of Murray on his track record.

"Based on experience in New Zealand and Vancouver this represents a move to a ‘command and control' leadership style out of which the most likely outcomes are reduced workforce morale and a squeezing of innovation."

Powell was clear that both morale and innovation are essential prerequisites for quality improvement and cost effectiveness.

Hamilton-based Labour list MP Sue Moroney said she hoped the health board had done its research.

"I urge the Waikato DHB Board to consider the findings of the recent Ministry of Health report on the DHB in deciding whether Dr Murray is the right choice for this important role.

"In my view, the report points to the need for a CEO who can build trust between staff and management and one who can ensure that staff will be supported to do the best job possible for the health needs of Waikato people."

At their annual general meeting this week, the DHB's senior doctors discussed holding a vote of no-confidence in Murray but were told his appointment was a done deal and didn't hold a vote.

Powell said it was disappointing the board did not discuss Murray's appointment with senior doctors in advance.

Waikato Times