An open letter to the people of Canterbury: CDHB in crisis

About 200 doctors and nurses have gathered outside Canterbury District Health Board's office in...
About 200 doctors and nurses have gathered outside Canterbury District Health Board's office in Christchurch, demanding more transparency as the leadership crisis deepens. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Our District Health Board is facing an unprecedented leadership crisis. Five members of the executive leadership team have resigned in the past month, including chief executive David Meates, and chief medical officer, Sue Nightingale*.

This crisis has been precipitated by the Board’s refusal to hold meetings and make governance decisions in a visible and transparent way. It has also forged ahead with decisions which are at odds with best advice from the leadership team and senior medical staff, and which are not in the interests of best patient care.

This leaves the people of Canterbury at risk, particularly in light of the Covid pandemic, not to mention increasing pressure on hospital waiting lists, and ongoing staffing shortages in some specialities.

The Board is now making interim appointments to fill the vacant executive team positions and again it is doing so without seeking local advice or information.

Canterbury DHB has particular financial stressors. The fallout from the earthquake rebuilds, along with the impact of capital charges (government-imposed interest and administration costs) are a constant drain on the DHB’s deficit. There has also been the delay in opening the Hagley Building, resulting in costs of $20 million a year to pay for private operating theatres to plug the surgical gap. We need to be having focussed and detailed conversations about these issues, along with what it really costs to run a fit-for-purpose public health system.

We expect better from the Board and we expect better from the Government.

We are calling for:

• the Board to act as advocates for the people of Canterbury, instead of acting for the Minister, who Sir John Hansen has described as the Board’s “shareholder” and to whom he has suggested he has primary responsibility

• full transparency in the Board’s decision-making

• staff representation in the executive team appointments processes

• a review of the funding for the next phases of the Christchurch Hospital rebuild

• honesty around waiting lists and the abandonment of the pilot “pooling” project which is preventing access to hospital-level care

• improved communication with staff and the community

• a commitment to decision-making which has patient care at its heart.

We pay for our health system and deserve to see what is going on. The Board, whether elected or appointed, needs to be accountable to all of us, and put the health of the people of Canterbury first.

*NB letter dated August 19 so prior to news of further resignations

Written on behalf of our members and colleagues, and for the communities we serve.

Ngā mihi

Sarah Dalton, Executive Director, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

Dr Alistair Humphrey, chair, Canterbury Hospitals’ Medical Staff Association (CHMSA)

Dr Vanessa Weenink, GP, Papanui

- NZ Doctor

 

 

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