14 throw hat in ring for SDHB

Dunedin Hospital. Photo: ODT files
Dunedin Hospital. Photo: ODT files
Despite a ballooning deficit, pressures on waiting lists, a massive construction project to plan for and intensive interest in its services, at least 14 people have put their names forward for one of the most challenging jobs in health governance - being a member of the Southern District Health Board.

With a week to go until nominations close, there have been nine nominations for the four vacancies representing the Otago constituency and five for the Southland constituency.

Three of those candidates have personal experience of how tough the job can be: Neville Cook, Kaye Crowther and John Chambers were on the SDHB in 2015 when it was controversially sacked by then health minister Jonathan Coleman and replaced by a commissioner.

Robin Gauld, dean of the University of Otago Business School and a professor of health policy, said it was a good sign that so many people were already standing and more were likely to put their hand up before the August 16 nominations deadline.

He was not surprised so many people had already put themselves forward as there were a number of qualified administrators and health professionals in the southern community.

"I suspect there is an awareness of the magnitude of the task and the people who are putting their hands up are alert to the demands and requirements of DHB governance than they may have been 18-19 years ago."

Nominees include Malcolm Macpherson, Central Otago mayor for three terms from 2001 to 2010 and also a former Otago and SDHB board member for four terms.

"The sacking of the SDHB board, months after I stood down in 2013, pulled me up short, even though I had long predicted it," he said.

14 throw hat in ring for SDHB
"I was there when we didn't do well, and I've been thinking since (and writing) about why, and asking what could we have done differently.

"Not 'solving' the SDHB's deficit shows that there are systemic, nationwide, issues here, not a failure to govern by previous boards, including the four I was an elected member of."

Invercargill lawyer Ben Nettleton was among those whose nomination was announced yesterday.

SDHB

  • Employs 4600 staff
  • Serves 326,000 people
  • Comprises 62,356sq km
  • Delivers $1billion worth of health¬†services annually
  • Has a $40million deficit

"The DHB needs a strong board, with fresh thinking and the capability to have robust discussions, to navigate its way successfully through the many challenges it is facing," Dr Macpherson said.

Dr Gauld, who has previously stood for the SDHB, has written academic articles questioning how effective health boards were, and whether they truly represented the public interest due to the traditional low election turnout.

"It is also quite clear in the legislation that these representatives are not there to represent the public, they are there to do the Government's work and I don't know the general public fully understand that," Dr Gauld said.

"It will be interesting to see what the [government-commissioned] health system review comes up with. I think everyone is waiting with bated breath to see whether they say it is time to have a rethink about the governance and organisation system itself."

Confirmed SDHB candidates are:

Otago constituency: Shanon Arnold, John Chambers, Graham Clarke, Gordon Dickson, Lyndell Kelly, Malcolm Macpherson, Lyndsay Rackley, Peter Rodwell, Rob Woodhouse.

Southland constituency: Neville Cook, Kaye Crowther, Ben Nettleton, Marion Poore, Leanne Samuel.

As well as the elected candidates, the Minister of Health can appoint up to four other board members.

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