Waikato DHB backs incoming boss

Nigel Murray
Nigel Murray
The Waikato District Health Board has backed its incoming chief executive, saying he comes with "outstanding" references.

New Zealander Dr Nigel Murray will take up his new role at Waikato DHB on Monday, in the wake of a newly released report which showed he was in charge of one of the worst-performing Canadian health authorities. Doctors here have also questioned his leadership style over his past role heading Southland DHB.

Dr Murray announced he was quitting his job as head of the Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia and returning to New Zealand shortly before the Canadian government-ordered review was due to be released.

The review found several Fraser Health Authority hospitals had some of the worst results in Canada on various measures of patient safety and quality of care.

Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King yesterday branded the report "damning".

But Bob Simcock, chairman of the Waikato board, said it had been assured of Dr Murray's competence following an "extensive international search" for a new CEO.

"We were aware of the review and so we took particular point to raise that issue with both the chair and the ministry of health up there. As far as the ministry was concerned it didn't raise issues of performance relating to Nigel and they thought he'd done a good job at Fraser.

"That with all the other references we'd got, which were all extremely positive, leads me to have confidence that he's going to do the job we want."

He said the references "universally describe him in outstanding terms".

"I could not have expected as strong references as we got," Mr Simcock said. "We expect Nigel to perform to the level of those references."

He admitted Dr Murray was taking up the role at a "shift time", in which the DHB was facing a number of issues.

"I've spoken to him and he's very keen to get here and get on with the job. It's a major step for us."

Dr Murray was announced as the new CEO of Waikato DHB last month, amid speculation he had already secured the job before the hiring process was complete.

Mr Simcock said such inferences were "nonsense" and had "no foundation".

After Dr Murray resigned from Fraser Health because it had become public that he had applied for the Waikato job "he called me and I said, 'well we can't make a commitment to you, we haven't finished our reference checking'. He said, 'I know, that's fine, I've been offered another job"', Mr Simcock said.

The board had also investigated concerns raised by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists -- which described Dr Murray as a "polarising" leader and earlier called on the DHB to "put the brakes" on hiring him -- and said they were all "totally unfounded".

Yesterday, a Waikato DHB spokeswoman said she was unable to put media in touch with Dr Murray for interviews as he was still in Canada.

However, Mr Simcock said he had spoken to Dr Murray yesterday morning, and was of the view that he would not be speaking to media regarding the review as he had not done so in Canada.

- By Patrice Dougan of APNZ

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