South Link Health (SLH) says it found out through reading the
Otago Daily Times that the Southern District Health
Board had called in a forensic accountant over what the
Dunedin-based independent practitioner association believed
until this week was a commercial dispute.
SLH executive director Dr Murray Tilyard said yesterday
commercial negotiations were no longer appropriate.
Chairman Joe Butterfield told the health select committee
this week his preferred outcome remained a commercial
Dr Tilyard said: ''You can't mediate your way out of fraud
''If they had raised that at any stage, we would have had to
disengage from mediation. Because the issue of fraud would
have to be ... examined before you could go back to
SLH learnt of the allegations through the media, and did not
know until yesterday morning the board had hired a forensic
Dr Tilyard said the issue was causing distress for
Dunedin-based staff, and for general practices owned by South
Link Health Services.
But there had been huge support from member practices, and
the wider primary care sector, since the allegation surfaced
this week, he said.
Dr Tilyard said he greatly respected board member Richard
Thomson, who raised the alarm with the Auditor-general.
However, he believed Mr Thomson acted on incorrect
information about the cause of the long delay in finalising
He said SLH had health funder approval to use savings from
laboratory and pharmaceutical contracts for other health
programmes, and did not owe any money.
Turnover in senior management on the health board made it
difficult to bring the long-running matter to a close because
of a lack of institutional memory, and a lack of adequate
health board records.
SLH had supplied large amounts of documentation to the board
to support its position.
It included written evidence that approval was granted by the
then funding managers. Dr Tilyard believed SLH had become an
election year ''political football''.
''What we struggle to understand is why in 2014 are we still
in dispute over matters which occurred in the 1990s until
The Otago Daily Times asked Mr Butterfield and board
chief executive Carole Heatly to disclose when the forensic
accountant was engaged, but both declined.
Mr Butterfield said he had spoken to the select committee,
and did not think it appropriate to comment further.