The Southern District Health Board has agreed to consider
the Ombudsman's view that it should consult the public before
controversial decisions, but it was difficult to ''second
guess'' the circumstances when that would be required, chairman
Joe Butterfield told board members this week.
New Ombudsman Ron Paterson, in a letter to the board, said it
should have consulted on the decision to start a termination
service in Southland last year, a move that faced strong
opposition from anti-abortion group Southlanders for Life,
which complained to the Ombudsman.
Prof Paterson's view differed from his predecessor, David
McGee, whose provisional finding backed the board's view it
did not have to consult.
Board member Tim Ward agreed with Mr Butterfield, while
deputy chairman Paul Menzies said the test had to be what was
Board member Richard Thomson queried whether the termination
service could be said to be an extension of a service, when
it really only eliminated the need to travel to another
Southlanders for Life spokesman Vaughan Leslie contacted Prof
Paterson this week to complain about an initial formal
recommendation to board members that had no mention of the
need to consult. The old recommendation had simply reiterated
Mr McGee's provisional opinion backing the board.
A new recommendation, acknowledging Prof Paterson's view
about consultation, was issued to board members at the meeting
on Thursday, and was unanimously adopted.
Fr Leslie said yesterday that the decision was a win for
democracy, but he was not satisfied the board had overcome
its ''arrogance'' and ''contempt'' for the democratic
''I personally believe that they will struggle to ever do any
consultation, the way they currently operate.''
The group will march in Invercargill tomorrow, when Prof
Paterson's letter will be read out.