The commissioner appointed by the Health Minister to replace Waikato District Health Board because of its large deficit, is earning an estimated $1255 per day.

Dr Karen Poutasi was paid $30,138 for about 24 days of work, between May 8 when she took over from the board and June 30, according to the DHB's latest annual report.

Poutasi took charge of the DHB after Minister of Health Dr David Clark sacked the 11-member board in May because of a deteriorating financial position, lack of strong governance, and ongoing clinical performance issues.

The DHB was also struggling to recruit a permanent chief executive following the resignation of Dr Nigel Murray amid his spending scandal in October 2017.


When Clark announced Poutasi's appointment on May 7, he said she would work two-to-three days per week.

Based on this the Herald divided the $30,138 listed as her compensation, by three days per week to show a daily rate of $1255.75, though it's unclear if this includes expenses.

It's also unclear whether Poutasi might have worked more than 24 days in the seven-week period, which would bring the rate down.

Waikato DHB board facing the sack
Crystal Beavis went on taxpayer-funded course for Waikato DHB after board was sacked
Health Minister David Clark sacks board, appoints commissioner for Waikato DHB
Bay chairwoman says sacking of Waikato DHB has no impact on her role

However she was still chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in May and Clark said she would take unpaid leave from that job when focusing on the DHB.

Two of Poutasi's three deputy commissioners, Middlemore Hospital surgeon Dr Andrew Connolly and health executive Chad Paraone, earned $6000 each for six weeks' part-time work, and former board member reinstated as a deputy commissioner, Professor Margaret Wilson, was paid $4565.

It's not clear what their rate per day is because it's not known exactly how many days per week they work.

The DHB also has a Crown Monitor, Ken Whelan, who is paid $35,000 per year for his work trying to steer Waikato back into the black.


The Herald has calculated Poutasi's compensation could total almost $196,000 per year if she were to work three days of every week in the year, at that daily rate.

It comes as the annual report shows the DHB's deficit for the financial year to June 2019 was $119.7 million.

It has been steadily climbing from $37.2m in the 2017/18 year, and was projected to be $56.1m but a one-off personnel cost of $45m - largely due to the interpretation of the Holidays Act 2003 - bumped the deficit skyward.

Health Minister Dr David Clark appointed Dr Karen Poutasi as commissioner of Waikato DHB in May to turn the health board around. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Health Minister Dr David Clark appointed Dr Karen Poutasi as commissioner of Waikato DHB in May to turn the health board around. Photo / Mark Mitchell

When he announced Poutasi's appointment, Clark said Waikato DHB's financial performance had deteriorated sharply.

"I have made my expectations clear to Dr Poutasi on the significant changes that are required to improve the DHB's financial and clinical performance."

Poutasi's compensation is on par with past district health board commissioners.

In 2015 the Southern District Health Board was sacked and replaced with commissioners, with lead commissioner Kathy Grant earning $1400 per day and her three deputies $900 per day.

And by comparison, Waikato DHB board members including chairwoman Sally Webb earned a total of $278,351 in the previous year until being sacked.

Since being appointed Poutasi has hired a new, permanent chief executive, Dr Kevin Snee, and settled a public dispute with the family of former board member, Dave Macpherson.

Before Poutasi took over the DHB called for a second coroner's inquest into the death of Macpherson's son, mental health patient Nicky Stevens, after the first inquest found his 2015 death avoidable and said the DHB's care fell well short of expectations.

After Poutasi's appointment the DHB reversed its stance, withdrew its complaint to Crown Law over "procedural issues" with the Coroner Wallace Bain's first inquest, and offered the whānau a full, public apology including compensation.

The Herald sought comment from Waikato DHB which was unable to respond in time.