By Anusha Bradley of RNZ

Hawke's Bay District Health Board is reviewing its communication policy after a "disappointing" letter was sent to hundreds of disabled elderly last week, the board's new chair says.

The letter was sent to 605 people telling them their help with home chores would be cut, adding that housework was a good way to keep fit and healthy. The DHB had since apologised and reinstated services.

DHB chairman Shayne Walker, who was appointed to the role last month, said the former board was aware that home help services were being reviewed but new board members were not told about the letter until it was already sent.

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"Unfortunately the letter went out and we don't have oversight of that, but disruption and angst it has caused is extremely unfortunate.

"It has certainly highlighted some challenges for us as a new board to ensure that we have more appropriate processes in place."

That included reviewing the DHB's communications policy to ensure there were "considerations and checkpoints" in place so it didn't happen again, Walker said.

"If there are issues that could raise concerns in amongst community then we want to be briefed prior."

Comments in the letter that housework was a good way of keeping fit were based on Ministry of Health advice, but should never have been included in the letter, Walker said.

"The effect it has had is really disappointing, especially on our elderly."

Meanwhile, the new board would meet for the first time next month and work was under way in the next fortnight to discuss priorities for the year ahead.

While all health boards faced financial pressures, some of the top priorities for Hawke's Bay DHB would be around mental health and improving health equities for Māori, Pasifika and child wellbeing, Walker said.

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"We want to make sure we are also a great employer and take care of our staff. One priority for me is to create a culture within our board that works proactively together. If we can do that then we can work our executive team extremely well and start to effect change in terms of health outcomes."

Recruitment was under way for a new chief executive after Kevin Snee's departure to Waikato DHB last year, but a final appointment was not expected for some months.