Hawke's Bay District Health Board chairman Kevin Atkinson has slammed his outspoken board member Jacoby Poulain, saying the only way any member can criticise their own organisation is "by resigning".
Yet Poulain is defending her stance, sparked by the attempted Oranga Tamariki uplift of a baby from the maternity ward last month, where she claimed the board had "failed significantly in its duty of care to provide safe and adequate care to mother and child in this situation".
Poulain said she refused to be "subject of a proceeding where [she's] the one on trial.
"Any talk from the chairman about the minister removing me from my role based upon these circumstances is highly disturbing."
Atkinson, speaking to Hawke's Bay Today from overseas, said if Poulain wanted to continue as a member she must abide by the board's code of conduct.
"I mean, the only way any director of an organisation, can criticise the organisation they're a board member of publically, is by resigning, simple as that."
The May 7 incident brought Oranga Tamariki's justifications for taking newborn babies from their mothers into the national spotlight.
Police spent that night, and the early hours of the next morning at Hawke's Bay Hospital because of a standoff between Maori midwives, lawyers, whanau and Oranga Tamariki over the baby.
Following Poulain's opinion piece published in Hawke's Bay Today a week later, she received a letter from Atkinson saying he was "concerned about these comments and your approach to the media for a number of reasons".
In the letter, he said it was "inappropriate for you to speak publicly in the way that you have" and her comments were "inaccurate" and put the "DHB and board in an unfavourable light when this was not justified".
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He went on to say that Poulain's "comments and actions do not comply with [her] obligations as a Board member.
"Any communication should be in a manner consistent with the principles of the Board Code of Conduct and Ethics and the DHB's Media Relations Policy.
"As a board member, you simply can't do that, you can't criticise your own organisation publically. She hadn't even discussed the issue with the board and still hasn't as of today."
On May 27, Poulain sent a counter-complaint to Atkinson in which she said her legal obligations under the Public Health and Disability Act 2000, among other laws, override those of the board's Code of Conduct and Ethics.
She said the human rights legislation and health legislation "both permits and requires me to speak about the effective functioning of the health board. If a policy restricts that ability, it must be yielded.
"I'm deeply frustrated the chair is insisting on focusing discussions on me alone instead of the real issues."
Atkinson says he has spoken to Health Minister David Clark who has the power to remove a board member under the Public Health and Disability Act 2000, on this and a number of issues.
He said that while he hasn't considered this, he "wouldn't consider it until I have given Jacoby an opportunity to speak to the board first, but I mean that could well be an outcome from that meeting".