Commissioner still needed for ailing DHB - opposition MPs

The Government has injected new blood into the crisis-stricken Capital and Coast District Health Board, but other political parties believe a commissioner will still be needed to resuscitate it.

Health Minister David Cunliffe yesterday named former ANZ chief executive Sir John Anderson as the board's new chairman and appointed a crown monitor to the board to report to him in a watchdog role.

The DHB, which runs Wellington Hospital, has been severely criticised for its ballooning budget deficit, friction between management and staff, its treatment of new mothers, its difficulty running some services such as child cancer treatment and a string of medical mishaps involving the death of some patients.

Mr Cunliffe said the situation at the DHB, which has a forecast $48 million deficit by 2009, was "serious" and he was looking for the board to stabilise its problems.

He would not identify what he believed the DHB needed to do, but expected the new-look board to develop a recovery plan and improve relations between board, management and staff in its first four months.

If it could not do that then it faced the possibility of a commissioner being appointed.

But opposition parties called for that to be done straightaway.

National Party health spokesman Tony Ryall said more than half the members of the new board had been on the old board, but were now expected to solve the difficulties they had been part of.

"The culture change required at Wellington Hospital will be harder to achieve now that the Government has balked at appointing a commissioner," he told Parliament.

"Can we really expect Sir John Anderson to turn around Wellington Hospital when more than half of its board are the same failed people who brought the Wellington health service to its knees?"

Act MP Heather Roy said the DHB needed an independent and experienced troubleshooter with the ability to form their own team.

Instead it had most of the board members who had presided over the crisis for the past three years.

A crown monitor also raised the prospect of political meddling, she said.

Government support party United Future also had its doubts over whether Sir John would be able to pull the board around.

Leader Peter Dunne said Sir John had a "tremendous track record" in helping out organisations in trouble.

"But I still incline to the view that appointing a commissioner with sole control of the DHB may yet be the best answer.

"Perhaps that will be Sir John's next role."

Sir John replaces Judith Aitken, who remains on the board after being re-elected in October.

Former union boss Ken Douglas will remain as deputy chair.

Mr Cunliffe also appointed Peter Douglas and Selywn Katene to the board - rounding out the Crown's four appointments.

Northland DHB's director of medical services Dr Ian Brown is the crown monitor.

Mr Cunliffe said discussions were continuing about a cash injection to help the DHB's financial situation, but any payment was unlikely until the board's fortunes were stabilised.

- NZPA

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