Group crit­i­cises DHB head

Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - Natalie Akoorie

A group rep­re­sent­ing hun­dreds of doc­tors has writ­ten an ex­plo­sive let­ter to the Min­istry of Health sig­nalling a vote of no con­fi­dence in Waikato District Health Board chief ex­ec­u­tive Nigel Mur­ray and chair­man Bob Sim­cock.

The damn­ing let­ter from Pin­na­cle, the Mid­lands Health Net­work made up of 400 GPs in 100 prac­tices in the Waikato, Taranaki, Lakes and Gis­borne districts, crit­i­cises what it de­scribes as the “dic­ta­to­rial” man­age­ment-style of Mur­ray and blames the DHB for a deep­en­ing rift be­tween the two or­gan­i­sa­tions.

In July the Week­end Her­ald re­vealed Mur­ray was on leave while his work ex­penses were in­ves­ti­gated fol­low­ing con­cerns of un­ex­plained or unau­tho­rised spend­ing.

Au­dit New Zealand is also con­duct­ing an au­dit of the DHB’s man­age­ment of the process, in­clud­ing the au­tho­ri­sa­tion and pay­ment of the ex­penses, which Sim­cock is re­spon­si­ble for.

The let­ter, seen by the Her­ald, was sent to Min­istry of Health di­rec­tor-gen­eral Chai Chuah on August 2, to es­ca­late con­cerns over a “dys­func­tional” re­la­tion­ship be­tween the DHB and Pin­na­cle, whose GPs col­lec­tively treat 450,000 pa­tients.

“We are aware of sim­i­lar con­cerns be­ing raised across the Waikato DHB area by a range of providers, pa­tients and clin­i­cian groups,” Pin­na­cle In­cor­po­rated chair­man Dr Frank Cullen wrote.

Pin­na­cle is so des­per­ate to change the sit­u­a­tion it is con­sid­er­ing trig­ger­ing a con­trac­tual dis­pute to force the re­la­tion­ship prob­lems into the open, Cullen wrote.

He said Pin­na­cle raised con­cerns on a range of is­sues with the min­istry a num­ber of times dur­ing the past two years, both in writ­ing and in per­son.

A me­di­a­tion be­tween the two or­gan­i­sa­tions ear­lier this year had not re­solved the sit­u­a­tion and there had been “no change in be­hav­iour from the DHB”.

The let­ter ac­cuses Waikato DHB of:

Sig­nalling its de­sire to exit an ex­ist­ing re­gional al­liance be­tween Pin­na­cle and the four Mid­land re­gion DHBs

Threat­en­ing with­drawal of flex­i­ble fund­ing to the or­gan­i­sa­tion

Con­tin­ued in­vest­ment in vir­tual health sys­tem SmartHealth, in­clud­ing free ac­cess to af­ter-hours doc­tors in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with its con­tracted pri­mary care providers

Provoca­tive gam­ing be­tween pri­mary health or­gan­i­sa­tions in the re­gion

Keep­ing Pin­na­cle and other groups from the board.

“The con­trast be­tween our re­la­tion­ship with Waikato DHB and with the other DHBs in the Mid­lands Al­liance [Lakes, Taranaki and Tairawhiti] could not be more strik­ing,” Cullen wrote.

He added that Pin­na­cle did not have any en­gage­ment with the board un­der the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We have very lit­tle con­fi­dence in the cur­rent chair and the se­nior lead­er­ship at the DHB. Our con­cern for the pop­u­la­tion of the re­gion con­tin­ues to grow as per­for­mance and re­la­tion­ships be­come more strained.

“We do not ex­pect we will be able to change the re­la­tion­ship with­out a ma­jor change on the part of the DHB or with­out third party in­ter­ven­tion.”

The let­ter fol­lows calls last week for Sim­cock to re­sign if Mur­ray is found to have in­ap­pro­pri­ately spent tax­payer money and echoes con­cerns raised by se­nior doc­tor rep­re­sen­ta­tives about Mur­ray be­fore he was hired.

Mur­ray de­clined to com­ment and Sim­cock said he had not seen the let­ter.

“We are cur­rently re­view­ing sev­eral for­mal al­liances that the DHB is part of in or­der to find a so­lu­tion that best works for ev­ery­one and in­volves all pri­mary care or­gan­i­sa­tions not just one PHO,” Sim­cock said.

“We need to en­sure all our com­mu­nity has ef­fec­tive ac­cess to health­care out­side of a hos­pi­tal set­ting. Pin­na­cle has never been re­fused ac­cess to our board and we are al­ways very happy to meet with their board.”

Min­istry of Health di­rec­tor of ser­vice com­mis­sion­ing Jill Lane con­firmed re­ceipt of the let­ter and said the di­rec­tor-gen­eral was con­sid­er­ing it and would re­spond di­rectly to Pin­na­cle.

“The min­istry was in­volved in fa­cil­i­tat­ing me­di­a­tion ear­lier in 2017,” Lane said.

“Fol­low­ing on from that process, the min­istry has ex­pected the par­ties to con­tinue work­ing to­gether to pro­mote good re­la­tion­ships in the in­ter­ests of bet­ter health out­comes for peo­ple in Waikato.”

The of­fice for Health Min­is­ter Dr Jonathan Cole­man re­ferred ques­tions to the Min­istry of Health.

Photo / File

Waikato DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Nigel Mur­ray (look­ing at cam­era) and board chair­man Bob Sim­cock (right), have been crit­i­cised in a let­ter to the Min­istry of Health.

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