Former Southern District Health Board chief executive
Brian Rousseau has spoken out about the South Link Health (SLH)
dispute, providing a list of people he says knew about legal
advice the row could involve fraud.
Now based in Adelaide, Mr Rousseau contacted the Otago
Daily Times because, he said, he had ''ongoing public
responsibility'' to ensure statements in the public domain
SLH categorically rejects allegations of fraud or wrongdoing,
saying it had permission for its spending of savings from
1990s-era health contracts on other approved services,
following the rules at that time.
The disputed amount was initially about $5.3 million. It has
been estimated to be about $15 million with interest.
Questions have been asked about why so little seemed to
happen after the board received legal advice in 2010 that its
multimillion-dollar dispute with the independent practitioner
organisation could be fraud.
The board referred the matter to the National Health Board's
audit and compliance team, which is part of the Ministry of
Health, in late 2010. Asked to respond to Mr Rousseau,
National Health Board acting national director Michael
Hundleby said in a written statement yesterday the Ministry
of Health did not receive the legal advice about fraud until
January this year.
''The commercial dispute between Southern District Health
Board and South Link Health is an ongoing commercial
negotiation which the National Health Board has been
assisting the Southern District Health Board to resolve.''
Mr Rousseau said those aware of the possibility of fraud
included then Crown monitor Stuart McLauchlan, senior managers
in the Ministry of Health, including Mr Hundleby, South Link
Health executive director Murray Tilyard and the chief
executives and chairmen of South Island health boards.
''I'm not suggesting that Dr Tilyard or Stuart McLauchlan are
lying about the matter.
''I'm just saying they've forgotten, and I need to remind
them this exists. Evidence exists. It's in the public
interest that this matter gets resolved. It's a lot of money
involved,'' Mr Rousseau said.
Last week, Dr Tilyard said SLH did not know the board had
received legal advice the dispute was possibly fraudulent,
and said SLH would have disengaged immediately from mediation
if it knew the dispute was considered to have elements of
The ODT clarified the matter with Dr Tilyard, who
acknowledged he had forgotten SLH wrote to the board in 2010
asking for a retraction of a suggestion of fraud that arose
in mediation. He also said the claim was from a board
consultant, and was not a legal opinion. This was accepted by
Mr Rousseau, who said the board did not share the formal
legal advice with SLH.
Mr McLauchlan, appointed by Health Minister Tony Ryall to
watch over the board, was adamant this week that as far as he
was concerned, he was dealing with a commercial matter.
Mr Rousseau said he had checked with health board chief
executive Carole Heatly that the pertinent records from the
time in question were intact. The ODT has asked for
them under the Official Information Act.