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Waikato DHB Should Keep Looking for a Chief Executive


Waikato DHB Should Keep Looking for a Chief Executive

“The Waikato District Health Board needs to put the brakes on its negotiations with Nigel Murray and continue searching for a suitable chief executive,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).

“The person they appoint to replace Chief Executive Craig Climo will be leading one of the largest health organisations in New Zealand, responsible for running one of the biggest public hospitals in the country, making decisions about the future shape of health services for the people of Waikato, cooperating with other district health boards, and building relationships with senior doctors and other clinical staff.

“This appointment is too important to get wrong, yet the DHB seems to be rushing headlong into hiring someone who has a polarising leadership style that has been experienced in both New Zealand and Canada. This is not a good fit with the needs of a modern, collaborative health sector. We can do better.”

Mr Powell was commenting on a Waikato Times report that Nigel Murray’s appointment to the Chief Executive role being vacated by Craig Climo may a fait accompli. The Vancouver Sun newspaper in Canada says Dr Murray has already quit his C$444,000 a year job as head of the Fraser Health Authority to take up a job in New Zealand, just weeks before a government-ordered review of Fraser Health is due to be released.

“The Vancouver Sun report strongly suggests that there has been a parting of the ways between Fraser Health Authority and Nigel Murray. Why would someone give up a well-paid prestigious position for another position where he is only the preferred applicant, the appointment process is not yet completed, and no employment contract (including remuneration) has been agreed,” says Mr Powell.

“Usually when a chief executive leaves an organisation, the Board or Board Chair says something positive about their achievements in the role but so far the silence from Canada has been deafening.

“If the Board has no other suitable applicant, then it should re-advertise. It is safer not to appoint than to make the wrong appointment.

“Our advice from Canada is that Nigel Murray has had a poor relationship with doctors there, and has run Fraser Health with a command-and-control philosophy. That’s exactly what he did in New Zealand during his time at both Auckland and Southland DHBs in the 2000s.

“Further, his national leadership of collective agreement negotiations in 2006 and 2007 led to acrimonious negotiations with resident (‘junior’) and senior doctors. By aggressively pursuing a control-and-command agenda he provoked the former into an unprecedented week long strike and the second into massive national stopwork meetings, which required the then Health Minister to intervene,” says Mr Powell.

“Given the controversy involving Fraser Health Authority under Dr Murray’s leadership which is the only health authority in British Columbia to have financial deficits three years in a row despite a six percent budget increase in each of those years and his polarising record in both countries, with all these flashing lights only an incompetent board would proceed with this appointment.

“Control-and-command leadership styles in health systems are generally financially irresponsible because they repress innovation and improvement initiatives.”


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