Questions over new Waikato DHB head's past

Nigel Murray. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Nigel Murray. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The incoming chief executive of Waikato District Health Board was in charge of one of the worst-performing Canadian health authorities, a Canadian government-ordered review shows.

New Zealander Nigel Murray, who will take up his new role at Waikato DHB next week, was head of the Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia until earlier this year.

He quit the role to return to New Zealand shortly before the review was due to be released. It was announced he was being appointed CEO of Waikato DHB last month.

Nigel Murray. Photo / Richard Robinson

In the now released report, several Fraser Health Authority hospitals were found to have some of the worst results in Canada on various measures of patient safety and quality of care.

It was the only authority in British Columbia which failed to come within budget for three years in a row despite receiving budget increases for each of those years.

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

"Labour urged the DHB to hold off confirming Dr Murray's Waikato appointment until this latest report had been released. It declined," she said.

"I also sought information from the Ministry of Health and from Health Minister Tony Ryall as to the process around the appointment, but was given the brush-off.

"Nigel Murray will be responsible for one of New Zealand's biggest public hospitals plus an annual budget of over $1 billion, and Waikato DHB is not without its own shortcomings. A recent report noted there were too many managers, poor communication between departments, and too-slow treatment of patients. The board is aware of Dr Murray's track record. It will now be accountable for any decisions he makes in the future," Ms King said.

She said Dr Murray was "not new to controversy", highlighting a lengthy dispute over collective agreement negotiations with doctors in 2006-2007 when he was heading Southland DHB.

When his appointment was announced last month the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists called on the DHB to "put the brakes" on hiring him, saying it was "rushing headlong into hiring someone who has a polarising leadership style that has been experienced in both New Zealand and Canada".

Waikato DHB today reiterated its earlier support for Dr Murray, saying it was certain he was the best person for the job.

"All of the people we have spoken to in Auckland, Southland, and Canada have told us that Dr Murray is a high-performing chief executive and an outstanding leader," board chairman Bob Simcock said.

"As a board we want to use our limited resources to care for our community. We are convinced that Dr Murray can help us do that."


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