Doctors call for DHB chair to step down
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.’’