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Stand over tactics to gag boards

Roger Sowry National Health Spokesperson

12 June 2001

Stand over tactics to gag boards

The Director General of Health's direction to District Health Board chairs yesterday to gag their board chief executives from talking to the media is absolutely appalling, National's Health spokesman Roger Sowry said today.

"Yesterday the director held a conference call with board chairs and Health Minister Annette King. The director told chairs their chief executives should not talk to the media about their problems. The Minister's sitting mute on the conference call itself shows she endorses this gagging.

"The chairpeople were told the job of their chief executives was to implement Government policy, not to discuss it in public, and that any comments they made to media had first to be cleared by their chair.

"This gagging comes after a constant stream of stories from health boards in regions throughout the country in newspapers and other media about how hospitals services are under threat because the Government is underfunding health.

"These stand over tactics are horrifying. Chief executives would be doing the public a disservice if they were not honest about what services they can deliver.

"So much for the openness and public accountability this Government promised when in opposition. Annette King has said the buck would stop with her in health. The Minister must say what input she's had into this attempt to cover up the drastic problems being faced by boards.

"The fact is boards are being forced to cut services and waiting lists and times lengthen while boards run up deficits simply because the Government refuses to fund hospitals near the rate of inflation or wage and salary increases. "Annette King's failure to win any more funding for health is well and truly public knowledge after the Budget which gave no boards any extra money. Communities have a right to know how this will affect them," Mr Sowry said.

Ends

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