No takers for job, MP says

No-one seems to want the ''hospital pass'' of being chairman of the beleaguered Southern District Health Board, Dunedin North MP David Clark says.

It is three weeks since Joe Butterfield confirmed he was retiring at the request of Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

Then, Mr Butterfield said he did not know when he would finish, but it was ''imminent''.

Dr Coleman said this week Mr Butterfield would stay until the middle of the year, and no-one had been offered the job yet.

Dr Clark said he understood two people were ''sounded out'', and turned it down.

''It's quite literally a hospital pass.

''The Government's failure to support the hospital with a capital rebuild, its underfunding and criticism of the hospital, have created an environment that very few people are willing to work in.

''Any new chair in their right mind would want assurances from the Government that it is going to appropriately support the board, rather than using them as a whipping boy.''

The chairmanship has been a matter of speculation in the health sector; Southern is considered to have serious problems, including run-down hospital buildings, tension between some staff and senior management, and political pressure on the board.

However, Mr Butterfield hit back at Dr Clark's ''patently crap'' comments.

He said the Government supported the rebuild planning process, and also recognised the need to spend money on the existing clinical services building to keep it going for the six to 10 years required until a new building was ready.

He took particular offence at the suggestion the board was a ''whipping boy''.

Mr Butterfield said it was taking a bit longer to replace him than he expected, but it was not a problem, as he was happy to stay until necessary.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said it was challenging to find someone with the right mix of experience for a role which required both business and political acumen.

''Those sort of people don't grow on trees.''

It would be ''exciting'' for the right person, because of the challenge of turning around the organisation.

In an emailed statement, Dr Coleman said it was incorrect to say the position had been turned down, as it had not been offered yet.

''The mutually agreed arrangement with Joe Butterfield is that there would be a handover to a new chair some time midyear.

''No date has been specified. An appointment process is under way.''

Mr Butterfield, a Timaru accountant, was paid $54,000 in 2013-14 for his role as chairman.

He has been in the role for just over four years.

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