Ryall accused of pressuring SDHB

Tony Ryall
Tony Ryall
Health Minister Tony Ryall has been accused of pressuring the Southern District Health Board to discipline a Dunedin medical specialist for speaking to the media.

Yesterday in Parliament, Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague questioned Mr Ryall about his involvement in taking Dr John Chambers to task for commenting about Dunedin Hospital's emergency department.

Mr Ryall denied any inappropriate involvement in a board's employment relations.

He said board chairman Joe Butterfield raised the matter with him, and was told it was a matter for the board to "deal with".

Mr Hague then asked Mr Ryall why he had put pressure on the board through National Health Board chief adviser Yvonne Bruorton, to which the minister replied: "I do not know what the member is talking about".

Mr Ryall said he had, however, told the board it must resolve "major issues" in the Dunedin ED.

Earlier this year, Dr Chambers was invited to put his case to senior management as to why he should not receive a formal first warning, greatly upsetting the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), which saw it as the right of senior doctors to speak to the press.

Dr Chambers spoke as a union representative when he was quoted in the Otago Daily Times in the July article that prompted the action.

The ODT understands Dr Chambers will not receive a formal first warning, but that the parties are working towards final resolution.

Neither the union, nor the board, are willing to comment on the process.

Asked about the claims, chief executive Carole Heatly told the ODT she had "absolutely not" been pressured to take Dr Chambers to task.

It was a staffing matter, and entirely operational, she said.

When contacted, Mr Butterfield said he could not recall exactly what discussion he had had with Mr Ryall about the matter, but it would not have been "substantive".


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