A former health board member who spent $5000 of taxpayer's money on a governance course after being sacked has hit out at the Ministry of Health for inadequate training.
The Herald on Sunday revealed former Waikato District Health Board member Crystal Beavis went on the five-day Institute of Directors' course on May 12, five days after Minister of Health David Clark sacked the board for high debt and dysfunction.
READ MORE: Crystal Beavis went on taxpayer-funded course for Waikato DHB after board was sacked
Hamilton councillor to complete governance course costing ratepayers $5200 day before election
Commissioners contemplated for Waikato DHB? Health Minister David Clark tight-lipped
Health Minister David Clark sacks board, appoints commissioner for Waikato DHB
Beavis said the company directors course was rescheduled from March to mid-May and when Clark put the board on notice in April she did not ask for a refund because she thought one would not be available.
She has not offered to pay back the $5000 and said the DHB had not asked her to.
Instead Beavis said she welcomed the spotlight on her efforts to upskill herself if it raised questions about the Ministry of Health's responsibility to ensure all health board members met expectations.
She pointed to problems with the training of boards as the reason she had to take the Auckland course and said inadequate training was affecting health delivery.
"The ministry has neglected to address increasing the quality of governance of DHBs, especially for those who are elected across the country.
"In nine years as an elected DHB member for Auckland and Waikato I have had two days of induction provided by the ministry.
"The lack of systematic governance training for DHB boards is a serious issue affecting health care delivery in this country."
She said every year there was an expectation by the Ministry of Health that DHB boards should conduct performance evaluations and consider training needs of board members, and there was a board training budget for this purpose.
"My own interest in obtaining further training during my last term on the Waikato DHB was delayed by talk of a ministry initiative to introduce a tailored training programme for board members that never happened."
Ministry of Health deputy director-general of DHB performance support and infrastructure, Michelle Arrowsmith, said both the ministry and DHBs provided induction for board chairs and members.
"However, we acknowledge that this hasn't always been as consistent across the country as it could have been and we know this can be improved upon.
"Therefore the ministry is currently working with DHBs following this year's election and appointment processes, to enhance the experiences of chairs as well as elected and appointed DHB board members, as a continued strengthening of the public health system."
Arrowsmith said during December the ministry would support a revised process of induction specifically for board chairs.
"The ministry will also work regionally to support the board chairs in the induction and training and development of their board members to enhance existing skill sets and support upskilling as appropriate."
She said DHBs would deliver local induction and support to their newly appointed chairs and members.
"Under our devolved health system, the commitment of DHB board members is recognised by the ministry as a significant contributor to improving health outcomes for all New Zealanders.
"We want to support boards in this important governance work, not only at induction but ongoing through their term of office."
Meanwhile, Beavis said it was also not clear what the Health Minister's decision would be over the fate of Waikato DHB's board until his announcement on May 7.
"The minister's reasons for appointing a commissioner included 'lack of strong governance' by the board.
"Yet most DHB boards are facing the sorts of issues that faced Waikato DHB.
"The major difference for Waikato DHB was the inability to appoint a chief executive at a time when a tragic issue involving one of its board members was playing out in the media.
"This supports the view that the ministry should be providing much more assistance for boards in all ways, including upskilling as required in governance and handling conflicts of interest."
Former Waikato board member Dave Macpherson said while he agreed that induction training was inadequate, he refuted Beavis' suggestion that his family tragedy contributed to the board's sacking.
In December last year Coroner Wallace Bain ruled Nicky Stevens' suicide while in the care of Waikato DHB in 2015 was avoidable.
The DHB tried to get the inquest reopened, which Macpherson and his wife Jane Stevens fought.
"I had removed myself from involvement in the chief executive appointment process because of a perception of conflict of interest, which I had decided," Macpherson said.
"The fact was that the board and its leadership had so poorly handled the legal situation with our family by trying to get the coroner's hearing reopened, that they brought all the bad publicity on themselves."