Baker-Hogan 'staggered' by secrecy

By Melissa Nightingale

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Discussions on problems around the Regional Women's Health Service (RWHS) are to be held confidentially today.

In the Whanganui District Health Board meeting's confidential section is an item with the resolution of "Agrees to dissolve the existing RWHS", Whanganui member Philippa Baker-Hogan said yesterday.

In an email to board chairwoman Dot McKinnon and chief executive Julie Patterson, Ms Baker-Hogan said it was "entirely unsatisfactory" to have the item in the public-excluded section of the meeting "under this cloak of secrecy without any open, transparent and accountable communication with our community".

The discussion comes after a report following a review of the service, which was set up in 2013 to provide consistent maternity care to Whanganui women.

The service was a joint initiative between Whanganui and Palmerston North's MidCentral Health Board, but suffered from failings in MidCentral's leadership and co-ordination.

The report noted Whanganui "adapted well" to the service and had no issues, while MidCentral had numerous problems around accountability and responsibility.

The service was reviewed following seven "serious adverse events", where five babies died in Palmerston North. Two other babies were seriously harmed - one of the adverse events happened in Whanganui. The report recommended the service be reviewed and a less complex one developed instead.

Ms Baker-Hogan told the Chronicle she was "appalled that critical decisions about the future of this service" were being held in private.

"I am staggered the leadership of the health board considers this acceptable."

Ms Baker-Hogan will be absent from today's meeting as she will be in Wellington managing her daughter in a sporting competition. She intends to phone in. She asked Ms McKinnon and Ms Patterson to take the item out of the confidential section and put it on the public agenda.

"There is nothing confidential about this item, as it has been in the public arena."

Board member Ray Stevens said members could vote on items in the confidential section.

"I can assure you anything deemed significant to the public, those decisions would be made publicly available within a short period of time."

Ms McKinnon said the decision to discuss the item in private was "made out of respect" for the MidCentral board, which was not due to hold its next meeting until April 5.

"Once both boards have considered the recommendations within the RWHS report and agreed to the next steps, we will ensure our communities are well informed," she said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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