Health Minister Tony Ryall has announced the reinstatement of Kevin Atkinson and his fellow elected DHB board members. These seven will serve on the Hawke’s Bay District Health Governance Board with Sir John Anderson as chairman. The Board will include Commissioners Brian Roche, Ngahiwi Tomoana and Ian Brown, all appointed by Sir John earlier this year to assist in his oversight of the DHB.

This arrangement will continue until the next scheduled local election in 2010.

“In my personal view, the events leading up to this litigation were most unfortunate and I can understand why the people of Hawke’s Bay were angry with what happened. I am determined to do what I can to put things right,” Mr Ryall said.

Parties also agreed to public release of all documents filed in connection with the judicial review sought by the five Councils serving Hawke’s Bay. The information in these documents will finally permit objective assessment of former Labour Health Minister Cunliffe’s handling of his dismissal of the elected Board, as well as the role of CEO Chris Clarke in the affair.

In a statement on behalf of the seven elected Board members, Kevin Atkinson said:

“The former Board was always confident that an unbiased review of the facts under the judicial review sought by the five councils would reverse the injustice imposed on our community.

The decision to dismiss the Board was an act of political obstruction to prevent the further investigation of issues over which the Board had very serious and justifiable concerns.

We now look forward to working with Sir John Anderson as Chair of the new Governance Board and getting on with the job we were elected by the Hawke’s Bay community to perform.”

And a statement on behalf of the five Councils that sought judicial review said:

“The Minister, Commissioner and the elected Board members see the result as an extremely positive way forward for the health and well being of Hawke’s Bay.”

As Sir John Anderson has never been a villain in the plot, it is expected that he and the elected Board members will have no trouble working together. Far less clear will be the status of CEO Chris Clarke, who, allied with Cunliffe, characterised the relationship between senior management and the elected Board as “toxic.” For Mr. Clarke’s sake, one hopes his recent month-long educational visit to the UK adds lustre to his resume.

It appears that democratic principles have been properly defended here in Hawke’s Bay. And the reputations of the elected Board members restored, by the reinstatement itself and further, in the near future, as this action is reinforced by disclosure of the judicial evidence and affidavits.

So after this victory of principle and honour, now what?

In his monthly review session with DHB management yesterday, Sir John observed that New Zealand has so far felt only a very small portion of the full adverse impact still to come from the global recession. And with bad economic times, he warned, all sorts of stresses on our health care system will intensify … nationally, and in Hawke’s Bay.

We now have eleven talented individuals supervising the delivery of health care by the Hawke’s Bay DHB. That should about cover it. Shouldn’t we expect splendid care indeed?!

In the new year, BayBuzz looks forward to reporting on the priorities and progress of Sir John, Kevin Atkinson and their colleagues on the Governance Board … and on the nitty gritty of health problems and health care delivery in the Bay.

Tom Belford

Full statements of Kevin Atkinson, the local Councils, and MPs Foss and Tremain are published below.

This statement is made by Kevin Atkinson on behalf of the seven elected members dismissed from the HBDHB Board on 27th February 2008.

“We welcome the news of our re-instatement and effective exoneration.

The re-instatement decision fully justifies the unprecedented action taken by the five Hawke’s Bay Councils on behalf of the community to challenge former Minister Cunliffe’s decision to dismiss the Board ten months ago.

The former Board was always confident that an unbiased review of the facts under the judicial review sought by the five councils would reverse the injustice imposed on our community.

The decision to dismiss the Board was an act of political obstruction to prevent the further investigation of issues over which the Board had very serious and justifiable concerns.

Minister Cunliffe’s unbalanced attack on the reputation of the former Board members and the statements made by him under the protection of parliamentary privilege were reprehensible, as were those statements made by a number of people giving him advice at the time of the Boards dismissal. At no time did Minister Cunliffe ever meet with the former Board to test the robustness and accuracy of the statements he made.

We now look forward to working with Sir John Anderson as Chair of the new Governance Board and getting on with the job we were elected by the Hawke’s Bay community to perform.”

Statement on behalf of Hastings, Napier, Wairoa, Central Hawke’s Bay, and HB Regional Councils

“The combined Mayors and Chair of Hawke’s Bay Councils are delighted that resolution of the judicial review case has been reached with the agreement of the Minister of Health Tony Ryall.

Talks with the Commissioner, Sir John Anderson and the democratically elected Board have resulted in a reinstatement of the Board to work with Sir John as Chair of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Governance Board.

The new Governance Board would include the Commissioner’s appointments of Deputy Commissioners, Brian Roche, Ngahiwi Tomoana and Ian Brown.

The people of Hawke’s Bay will welcome this result as it avoids a costly court case and is the remedy that the Councils were seeking. It also leaves behind the decision of the former Health Minister Mr Cunliffe whose decision to sack the board was contested by the Councils as being a breach of natural justice and an improper use of his powers.

The agreement means both the Councils and the Government will be reporting the result to the Judge of the judicial review on Monday 15 th December, submitting that the parties have reached agreement by consent and suggesting to him that case concludes. Both the Minister and the Councils have consented to full disclosure of documentation before the court.

The Minister, Commissioner and the elected Board members see the result as an extremely positive way forward for the health and well being of Hawke’s Bay. The Mayors and Chair are grateful to all parties for their willingness to negotiate and look for a satisfactory resolution of this difficult matter.”

Signed by Barbara Arnott, Lawrence Yule, Les Probert, Trish Giddens, Rex McIntyre

Foss and Tremain welcome return of democracy to Hawke’s Bay

The Bay’s local MPs are welcoming the reinstatement of the elected members of the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board as a Governance Board, to work with Sir John Anderson.

“This welcome move brings back local representation to our health board,” says Craig.

“It is a sensible way forward that has also allowed the withdrawal of the pending judicial review, saving Hawke’s Bay ratepayers and taxpayers the burden of a costly court case.”

Craig and Chris campaigned long and hard to reinstate the democratically elected Hawke’s Bay DHB.

“We are pleased that such a positive outcome has come out of what has been a very sad episode for local representation,” says Chris.

“This is the result of the people involved being willing to work for what’s best for Hawke’s Bay.”

Both Craig and Chris look forward to continuing to Back the Bay’s health board and vital health services.

Ends

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4 Comments

  1. Congratulations, Bay Buzz, for reporting so quickly and fully on the DHB situation. interference by the previousGovernment was a shameful disgrace. It is encouraging to see the new governnent has moved so quickly to sort out the fiasco with the HB DHB and the Herceptin.

    One of the most shameful aspects of the DHB siutation was the attacks on the character of the men on the board, especially Kevin Atkinson.

    The fact that this has been addressed so quickly is testment to the commitment and now influence of the local National MPs. ACT has always spoken out in the strongest terms against Labour's abuse of power. They make a pretty good team!

  2. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the sackings, why should the ratepayers have had $65000 of THEIR money hijacked to defend otherwise wealthy board members via legal fees?

    If various mayors felt so strongly about 'democracy', they could have shelled out of their own pockets.

    No doubt as men & women of principle, now they are back on the payroll,the reinstated board members will reimburse the ratepayers for their complicit solidarity??

  3. Whilst I welcome the reinstatement of the HBDHB in the sense that they represent us by election there are issues in the new status that I am uncomfortable with:-

    1.The scrutiny of the High Court would have verified once and for all what so many of us think – that the sacking was political and without justification.

    2. It would have revealed by objective analysis exactly what was going on that lead to the situation the Board found itself in. Any actions that were not in the public interest would have been identified in context and identified as to perpetrator.

    3. The need for the three additional charges on the public purse – messrs Roche, Tomoana and Brown – plus the Statutory manager would have been defined and may well have indicated that we need none of them.

    4. The feeling that we are again being politically finessed despite the release of the background papers is understandable – we have been denied the opportunity to see the evidence tested and will be left to interpret the documents for ourselves without the satisfaction of seeing a judgement that sheets home the particular responsibilities as a result of the judicial review.

    Welcome back all of you but I look forward to your explanation of the matters that were before the court and have a faint hope that some individual or individuals will be identified as problematic in the delivery of our health care.

  4. Saying that the government’s reinstatement of the sacked DHB will “save $250,000” (Napier Mail, 17 December) overlooks the fact that over $100,000 of ratepayers’ money has already been spent by our Local Territorial Authorities on the judicial review they initiated after Health Minister David Cunliffe dismissed the Board in February.

    The projected $250,000 would have made the cost to Hawke’s Bay ratepayers $350,000.

    Add to that expenditure the cost to taxpayers for preparation of the Crown’s case.

    So a sizeable chunk of public money has already been spent on getting a result – the reinstatement of the DHB – that both the Bay’s National MPs pledged to achieve anyway in a National-led government.

    It seems likely that the post-election outcome would not have been very different, without the judicial review.

    Local Territorial Authorities are elected to spend other people’s money – on their own core business. It’s called sticking to your knitting.

    The dismissal of another elected body – however unjustified it may have seemed to be at the time – should not automatically trigger a costly and time-consuming battle with lawyers as the only possible winners.

    As HBDHB Chairman Kevin Atkinson said, we shouldn’t be spending money when “we desperately need to spend that money at the coal face of Health services.”

    Attempts to pay back former Health Minister David Cunliffe for his unpopular move has meant large unbudgetted pay-outs from ratepayers.

    We value our elected officials and want them to stay where we put them, be they Councils or Health Boards.

    But our elected representatives make mistakes, and we forgive them.

    However before forgiveness, comes an admission of error.

    And calling for a judicial review, lumbering rate- and tax-payers with huge legal costs was, in my opinion, one of those.

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