Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Grievance payouts cost DHB thousands

Labour sees level of compensation in Waikato region as high.

Photo / File
Photo / File

Health bosses in the Waikato have paid out more than a quarter of a million dollars in personal grievances in the past year, including a payout to a nurse who fell asleep on the job.

Ian Sigglekow won an unfair dismissal case against the DHB in September last year, defending his behaviour by saying he was resting with his eyes shut.

But he did not get his job back with the DHB's forensic psychiatric service and received only a tenth of the $20,000 in compensation he was after.

His was one of 13 personal grievance cases taken by staff against the DHB between July 1, 2011 and June 30 this year, according to figures released to the Herald under the Official Information Act. A 14th case was claimed a year earlier but took until last year to be resolved.

The personal grievances were lodged by a doctor, a manager, eight nurses or midwives, two clerical and two allied-technical staff, and one non-qualified health care worker.

The DHB paid out almost $244,000 in compensation, with total costs running to $258,622, not including replacement and internal legal costs.

Including external legal fees of $14,702, the average cost of each case was $17,241 while compensation paid to former employees came from the operating budget in their department.

Labour health spokeswoman Maryan Street said the figure was high. A former employee relations manager for all of the country's district health boards until 2005, Ms Street said she worked hard to avoid personal grievances.

"I think the number [of PGs] is quite high in the course of one year, and I certainly think the compensation is unusual. If it's not unusual then it's gone up a great deal since I was in the trade."

It was made worse because there was no special contingency fund for personal grievances which meant unless service managers put aside some money for such a situation, compensation would come out of operational budgets, she said.

"I think that is always a concern and that's why it's always important to treat workers and managers with respect."

In February, Waikato DHB chief executive Craig Climo published a staff memo warning that a $30 million hole in his budget over the next three years may have to be partly filled by cutting staff numbers. But yesterday Mr Climo dismissed the notion the $1 billion a year organisation was undertaking extra redundancies and said he was comfortable with the amount of PGs and compensation, which was similar to past years.

DHB employment cases
Personal grievances defended by Waikato DHB since January 2012:
* Employment terminated for being absent several days without leave.
* Payment error in redundancy; payment advised as higher than should have been.
* Taking of medicines.
* Inappropriate language used at patient's spouse.
* Using DHB property for private employment and soliciting clients.
* Incompetence.
* Fraud.
* Dispute over whether employment was permanent or temporary.
* Bullying.

- NZ Herald

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