New health boss arrives under a cloud

NEW BOSS: Dr Nigel Murray.
NEW BOSS: Dr Nigel Murray.

The new boss of the Waikato District Health Board has welcomed a report that criticised his leadership of a Canadian health authority.

New Zealander Dr Nigel Murray will officially start as Waikato DHB's chief executive officer on Monday.

He said the review of his previous role as head of Fraser Health, in the Vancouver area, reiterated the need for transparency in large health organisations. "We must always be open to advice and criticism, and that transparency needs to be transferred to staff and patients," he said.

The report indicated staff were overworked and frustrated with a "top-down" leadership style.

"Budgeting is a top-down process with managers having no input into budget decisions," the report said.

However, Murray said his approach to budgeting in the Waikato would ensure all levels of staff were included in the processes.

"My approach is that everyone has to be involved in budgeting. As a physician myself I can't highlight how much I want to see clinical staff involved in leadership and budgeting decisions."

He said effective and appropriate patient care needed many people's input and he wanted to invest in patient care.

"I don't want one dollar wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy, but as many of those dollars spent on the patient care at the front line."

The review showed several hospitals under Fraser Health Authority's jurisdiction were rated the worst in Canada on various measures of patient safety and quality of care.

The report said Fraser Health had patient occupancy rates above 100 per cent, from 2008-2013, resulting in many patients lying on beds in hallways.

Only 55 per cent of emergency patients were admitted to hospital in less than 10 hours, making the authority's ability to deal with acute-care patients the worst in Canada. The report also criticised the way the health authority's board had dealt with crisis.

"The [British Columbia] ministry [of health] has had to intervene several times to resolve crisis at Fraser Health. The perception is that these situations would not have been resolved had the ministry not stepped in," the report said.

Canadian media reported the British Columbia health ministry would give Fraser an extra $60 million in funding as a result of the review's findings.

Murray resigned from his position as CEO of Fraser Health Authority before the review was made public, but said the findings had nothing to do with his decision to step down.

"My decision to move on to a new job was based on my desire to have a career step that was linked to my heritage, and any CEO who has been in a job for nearly eight years starts to think about other career opportunities."

Waikato DHB chairman Bob Simcock said he was confident Murray would be a "competent" leader of the organisation.

"We hired him based on references from people he has worked alongside and I am confident he will live up to those references," he said.

Waikato Times