The board has until Thursday to respond to Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman’s proposal to consider appointing a commissioner under the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act, it was revealed yesterday.
A commissioner would have the powers and functions of the board, except for procedural aspects relating to meetings, a letter from Dr Coleman to chairman Joe Butterfield says.
”Based on the board’s previous history of failure to deliver on its annual plan expectations, I do not have confidence that the current governance arrangements are suitable for overseeing the strategic plan or delivering on the changes required in Southern DHB,” he wrote. . .
The SDHB might not like this but the boards of the smaller hospitals it funds will be relieved.
The proposed action follows months of uncertainty after Dr Coleman confirmed in February he wanted to replace Mr Butterfield with a new chairman, but no appointment was made.
In the meantime, proposed cuts to head off a projected $42million deficit in 2015-16 met opposition and put pressure on Dr Coleman and local National MPs.
About 1700 people attended meetings in Central Otago last month to protest against possible reductions to Dunstan Hospital services.
George Berry, chair of Waitaki District Health Services said the proposed cuts would result in a serious downgrade of Oamaru Hospital.
The cuts to funding of Oamaru, Dunstan, Balclutha and Gore hospitals would be serious for them and make only a small difference to the SDHB’s deficit.
They’d also add to costs in Dunedin Hospital when patients unable to be treated locally were transferred to the city.
I was deputy chair of WDHS from its formation in 1998 until 2005.
It and the boards of the other rural hospitals have had an on-going struggle to get their fair share of funds and the financial situation of the SDHB has deteriorated.
Sacking the board and replacing it with a commissioner is a serious step but one which must be taken for the security of health services in the south.