In a colossal foul-up typical nowadays of NZ health care management, Health Minister David Cunliffe appears to have amputated the wrong leg in his recent medical intervention in Hawke’s Bay.

Certainly that’s the case made by Craig Foss, this week’s Guest Buzzmaker, along with most other local politicians.

Or maybe Cunliffe has done the right thing for the wrong reason?

On the one hand, one would think ousted Health Board Chairman Kevin Atkinson has actually been raising people from the dead, given the stampede to vilify his martyrdom. Unfortunately, the poor state of public health in the region, unimproved during his tenure (and that of his other re-elected Board veterans), would suggest otherwise.

On the other hand, Minister Cunliffe has managed to offend virtually everyone in Hawke’s Bay with what appears to be spiteful handling of democratically elected people of high personal integrity.

“They might be an anemic, under-performing Board, but they’re our anemic under-performing Board,” seems to be the rallying cry of local politicians.

So our Bay councils are charging forward, planning to spend in the neighborhood of $100,000 to “get to the bottom” of this controversy.

I can think of several better options for our local councils than spending $100,000 of ratepayer money on lawyering, if their goal is really to improve health care in the Bay.

Let me ask you: which of the following steps would do the most to improve the health of the people of Hawke’s Bay …

  • Hire a lawyer;
  • Hand over the $100K to the DHB to do more of whatever it is that health boards do;
  • Use the $100K in some fashion to improve primary health care in the region; or,
  • Ban fast food restaurants in Hawke’s Bay!

As for the violation of democracy, most people are lamenting the axing of a group of people they wouldn’t even be able to identify, much less evaluate the performance of.

Quick! Name three current members of the DHB … Now, identify something concrete any of those members has done to improve your health or the Bay’s health care system. And for the grand prize, how about this one … The powers of the DHB are … ???

Some say “who cares” about the elected DHB, since they have virtually no authority to make important decisions anyway … they simply spend Wellington’s funds the way the Health Ministry stipulates. So why do we need local health boards? What value do they add? What contributions do they make? I find myself asking those questions more and more.

David Cunliffe, if you’re going to declare war on local health boards, do it with integrity and consistency. Axe them all! But keep in mind that, in doing so, you’ll be left with no place to hide. You’ll be drawing attention to Labour’s bungling of the health care system. And it will be easier to fix real responsibility and accountability for what has happened to NZ health care since 1999.


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  1. Too true.

    Isn't hiring of lawyers, accountants, consultants, industrial-strength red tape makers et al by local health authorities one of the the main reasons that all the extra funding from our taxes has never actually gotten to the "health" part and instead been soaked up in the bottomless "authority" section.

    There appears to be a huge amount of information on the sacking and it's background that we haven't been told. In the vacuum that remains speculation and paranoia and, over the last year especially, a masochistic manufactured media melee are all too quick to fill.

    The public meeting was a good show of support, but what else? Obviously a good soapbox for Hawkes Bay's National Party members, but no matter the situation, isn't it the whole basis of the government's "opposition" to oppose pretty much everything they do? Socialists want to save, capitalists want to spend, Labour will tell you the best colour is red, National will tell you it's blue.

    In all the coverage I have never once heard actual fact that the sacking will cause people to miss operations, or treatment any more than they did previously.

    If anything, the money saved by having a sole commissioner may free up funds for more front line staff. Aren't doctors and nurses far more vital to the core of what a hospital does?.

    As for the council's and their multi-thousand dollar legal aspiriations? As you suggest, never mind the lawyers, give it straight to the community medical centres, GP's and nurses they deserve it far more.

  2. The issue has very little to do with Kevin Atkinson and the board ,whose performance has been as good as,if not better, than any other DHB'

    The issue is all about diverting attention from the possibility of the prosecution of Peter Hausemann for corruption and the equally possible prosecution of the then Minister of Health Anette King for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by covering up the alleged corruption .

    Helen and Cabinet are doing their utmost to put a smoke screen over the corruption issue and it is working well so far .The debate is all about demcocratic process , whether Kev is agoodie or a baddie, ,what the clinicians did or didnt say and all sorts of extraneous and immaterial side issues which is exactly how Mr Cunliffe wants it to play.Get them squabbling over irrelevant detail and they will miss the big issue. And a bit of local blood letting is a cheap price compared to having the risk of the cronies and stooges the crown foisted on the DHB (against the boards express advice and wishes ) standing in the dock being shaken down for some very shady dealings. That is not going to look good come Novemeber.

    Consider the facts .. Consider the government going to court to suppress the first draft of the report which says Peter naughty ,Kevin and the board good Consider the second report ,which the government wants to release which now conveniently says Peter good,Kevin naughty.

    This is a re run of the Muldoon -Peter Mahon Erebus affair where Mahon was crucified for telling the unpalatable truth : that Air New Zealand had lied like flat fishes and were as bent as a batten staple.

    Helen Clarke is playing Piggy and Kevin Atkinson is the new Peter Mahon.

    Ring up one of your elected and now dumped Board Members and ask them what is actually going on . Thats what I did last year

    before I signed the first mayoral letter calling for Kevin Atkinson to be reappointed to the chair of the HB DHB.

    If you are debating the performance of the board ,you are in the wrong ball park.But you are right where Clarke ,Cunliffe and King want you to stay. If you are debating whether crime should or should not pay , you are getting closer to the mark.

    kia kaha

    Tim Gilbertson


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