Health Minister Dr David Clark has informed Waikato DHB Board that he is seriously dissatisfied with their performance and is considering the appointment of a Commissioner to replace Board members.
The Board has two weeks (until 3 May) to formally respond before a final decision will be made, taking into account all feedback provided. This is an important part of the natural justice process.
“This step is not being taken lightly, however I am increasingly concerned by Waikato DHB’s deteriorating financial position, instability at a governance and leadership level, and ongoing performance issues.
“Ongoing connection between the DHB and the local community is obviously important and so, if a Commissioner is appointed they would be required to maintain robust arrangements to ensure community and iwi engagement continues.
“I have made it clear to all DHBs that financial performance needs to improve and they need to demonstrate they have a pathway to return to financial sustainability. I know it is challenging after years of underfunding, however New Zealanders deserve access to high quality services which deliver equitable outcomes.
“Waikato’s financial performance has continued to deteriorate. In 2017/18 they reported a deficit of $37.2 million, and they are forecasting a $56.1 million deficit for 2018/19 with increasing deficit forecasts in future years.
“Despite best efforts by the Crown Monitor who was appointed in August 2018, there has been limited progress due to instability at the governance and leadership level.
“Concerns remain following the 2017 independent inquiry into the Chief Executive which led to the resignation of both the Chair and the Chief Executive. Recent improvements have stalled with the Board’s decision to put the Chief Executive recruitment on hold.
“There are also a number of ongoing service performance issues, as well as maintaining accreditation from professional clinical bodies.
“This is symptomatic of wider problems related to an inefficient flow of patients through the hospital, and through primary care and rural hospitals.
“I acknowledge that the DHB has worked on strengthening its leadership role in the Midland region through working more collaboratively, and accreditation of most services has been regained. The work programme to enable the DHB to return to a financially sustainable position over the next three years is also a positive step.
“However, significant concerns remain with the Board’s performance, and there is a lack of confidence in the Board’s ability to improve the DHB’s overall performance. More significant action may be required to urgently lead the necessary improvements.
“No further public comment will be made while the process is underway and I have had the opportunity to carefully consider any submissions from Board members before making a final decision,” David Clark said.
If a Commissioner is appointed to Waikato DHB (under Section 31 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act), they would need to undertake actions beyond December 2019 given the significant change required. This would require legislation to cancel the October 2019 elections for Waikato (the 2022 elections would be unaffected and would go ahead). This approach was taken with Southern DHB in 2015/2016.
Any Deputy Commissioner appointments would be made by the Commissioner.