'Strong oversight' of SDHB maternity sought

Health Minister David Clark says the plan envisaged the new agency placing greater emphasis on...
Health Minister David Clark. Photo: ODT files
Health Minister David Clark has asked for "strong oversight" of the Southern District Health Board's maternity services following a highly critical report on how the board implemented its maternity care strategy.

Released a week ago, the report - an independent assessment by EY commissioned by the SDHB -- found severe problems with governance and project management of the strategy.

Reviewers also found important jobs had been left unfilled, and that there was no common definition of what a "maternity hub" - a key aspect of the strategy - was.

In Parliament yesterday, associate health minister Jenny Salesa, answering questions from National health spokesman Michael Woodhouse on Dr Clark's behalf, said the ministry would be watching to make sure the DHB implemented the report's recommendations promptly.

"It is clear from the recent review of the implementation of the primary maternity system of care that the DHB has a lot of work to do to regain the trust of the community," Mrs Salesa said.

"I expect all of the recommendations of that review to be implemented by the DHB and its newly-elected board."

Mrs Salesa confirmed Dr Clark had asked the SDHB for a review of its maternity plan before its implementation, and said he was advised the plan was "appropriate".

"However, as the recently released review confirms, the DHB did not bring the local community along with their changes."

The ministry would monitor the SDHB's progress and the Government expected the report's recommendations to be implemented as efficiently as possible, Mrs Salesa said.

Mr Woodhouse asked if the minister would ask for the strategy to be suspended following the report, but Mrs Salesa said that was an operational decision and she could not direct the DHB.

"I can assure the House that I have asked the ministry to provide strong oversight as the DHB responds to the recommendations of the review."

Mr Woodhouse told the Otago Daily Times the EY report had exposed the "superficial" nature of the minister's and ministry's previously expressed commitments to supervise the SDHB's maternity scheme.

"They gave assurances that the process was being followed correctly, and I think that was nothing more than hyperbole: we now know what was really going on," Mr Woodhouse said.

"Dr Clark has previous said he would be holding the DHB to account, and they haven't delivered, so what is he going to do to hold them to account - give them a strongly worded letter?

"At some stage someone has to be held to account for putting mothers' and babies' lives at risk."

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