Doc­tors call for DHB chair to step down

Waikato Times - - News - AARON LEAMAN

The heads of the coun­try’s two big doc­tor unions have called on em­bat­tled Waikato DHB chair­man Bob Sim­cock to step down.

And who­ever is hired to fill the now va­cant role of Waikato DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive will be tak­ing on one of the most chal­leng­ing jobs in the health sec­tor, the unions say.

Sim­cock has come un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to quit fol­low­ing the abrupt res­ig­na­tion of Waikato DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Nigel Mur­ray on Oc­to­ber 5.

Mur­ray’s res­ig­na­tion fol­lowed a two-and-a-half-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of unau­tho­rised spend­ing.

Sim­cock has re­jected calls for him to quit, say­ing he has the full con­fi­dence of his board.

The New Zealand Tax­pay­ers’ Union has also launched a pe­ti­tion urg­ing Sim­cock to go.

As­so­ci­a­tion of Salaried Med­i­cal Spe­cial­ists ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ian Pow­ell said se­ri­ous ques­tions were be­ing asked about Sim­cock’s judg­ment after he hired Mur­ray in 2014 de­spite warn­ings from se­nior doc­tors.

Pow­ell said mem­bers ex­pressed con­cerns over Mur­ray’s per­ceived lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and his record as head of Fraser Health in Canada.

‘‘There were flash­ing alarm bells go­ing and Bob Sim­cock just dis­re­garded them,’’ Pow­ell said.

‘‘If Bob re­mains then the risk of an­other bad ap­point­ment in­creases as a con­se­quence.’’

The health board es­ti­mates it could take up to 18 months to find an­other chief ex­ec­u­tive.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors found Mur­ray had over­spent on agreed re­lo­ca­tion costs dur­ing his shift from Canada in 2014 and filed other unau­tho­rised ex­pense claims un­der­stood to re­late to travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Pow­ell said the new chief ex­ec­u­tive will take on a hugely chal­leng­ing role due to the legacy left by Mur­ray.

‘‘It has to be some­one who can cre­ate a com­pletely dif­fer­ent lead­er­ship cul­ture.’’

New Zealand Res­i­dent Doc­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion na­tional sec­re­tary Deb­o­rah Pow­ell said Sim­cock should re­sign, cit­ing his de­ci­sion to hire Mur­ray de­spite warn­ings.

How­ever, who­ever is cho­sen to re­place Mur­ray faced a chal­leng­ing prospect.

‘‘I think Waikato is the most dif­fi­cult district health board at this stage,’’ Pow­ell said.

‘‘It’s got fi­nan­cial is­sues, it’s got ac­cred­i­ta­tion is­sues, it’s got cul­tural is­sues, and it has had an amaz­ing de­mand this year.

‘‘The de­mand has just not re­lented and we’re not quite sure why.’’

Pow­ell is cur­rently work­ing with the Waikato DHB after it was put on no­tice to im­prove the train­ing of young doc­tors.

The health board has been given six months by the Med­i­cal Coun­cil of New Zealand to im­prove its pre­vo­ca­tional med­i­cal train­ing.

A re­view by the coun­cil found the DHB did not meet four of 22 sets of stan­dards.

The stan­dards not met re­late to med­i­cal work­load is­sues, the wel­fare of in­terns, ed­u­ca­tion re­sources, clin­i­cal task man­age­ment and train­ing pro­gramme gov­er­nance.

Pow­ell said re­tain­ing train­ing ac­cred­i­ta­tion had to be a pri­or­ity for the health board.

She was hope­ful a new chief ex­ec­u­tive would ad­dress lead­er­ship short­com­ings ev­i­dent dur­ing Mur­ray’s ten­ure.

‘‘This DHB is in tur­moil at the mo­ment,’’ she said.

‘‘The chief ex­ec­u­tive is im­port- ant to de­ter­min­ing the cul­ture of an or­gan­i­sa­tion.

‘‘I’m very hope­ful for the staff at Waikato that they will get some­one who can work in that area.

‘‘It’s un­usual to lose first year house sur­geon ac­cred­i­ta­tion.

‘‘These are our first year grad­u­ates.

‘‘If we can’t get it right for them, then ques­tions have got to be asked.

‘‘This should be front and cen­tre for the Waikato District Health Board be­cause this isn’t just about first years, it says so much about the stan­dards gen­er­ally in that hospi­tal.’’

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