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Yesterday, as the Southern District Health Board was about to launch into a new topic eight minutes after its next meeting was meant to have begun, its chairman Pete Hodgson suggested that the board’s time might be better managed.
While acknowledging that staff put considerable time and effort into preparing extensive presentations for the board, Mr Hodgson noted that running through that material could be time-consuming.
The agenda for yesterday’s meeting was 275 pages long and considerable portions of it — including most of chief executive Chris Fleming’s report to the board, which contains an overview of the most significant issues which face the organisation — were not dealt with in the public section of the meeting.
Mr Hodgson is quite right to question whether the board’s time is being used effectively.
However, to use public service parlance, there is more than one stakeholder involved with this.
The public, through the eyes of the media representatives who were at yesterday’s meeting, are also entitled to know what the health board they elected and which looks after their wellbeing is up to.
This is absolutely not to suggest that Mr Hodgson was trying to hide anything — since the return to an elected board the SDHB has, to its credit, made much more material public than it ever used to.
But there were topics in Mr Fleming’s report, such as radiology services, elective surgery and the state of emergency departments which are issues the public are vitally interested in, and which did not deserve to be rushed past.