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Remove Health Board Gags, Says Kedgley

Green Party Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today that legal threats against an Auckland District Health Board member who had spoken to the media about underfunding were outrageous.

It has been revealed that Board member Chris Lowndes was threatened with a lawsuit by his Board chairperson, after going public with criticism of hospital underfunding.

"Gagging elected members and threatening them with legal action poses a serious threat to the democratic functioning of all District Health Boards in New Zealand, and calls into question the purpose of publicly elected DHB members," Ms Kedgley said.

The government said it was setting up District Health Boards to provide an open and accountable public health service people could trust, and that is the reason the Green Party supported them, she said.

Ms Kedgley said she was deeply disturbed to discover that elected members of District Health Boards were being told they could not discuss Board issues with the media, but that only chairpersons, chosen by the Minister of Health, were authorised to do so.

"What is the purpose of setting up District Health Boards and going to all the trouble and expense of an election, if members were then gagged from speaking out on any issue being considered by a District Health Board?"

"And if elected members are not able to speak to the media or talk about Health Board issues with the communities who elected them, how on earth are they supposed to be accountable to them?" Ms Kedgley asked.

"And what will they say at the next elections when asked why they have not communicated or reported back on what has been happening at their local health board?"

Ms Kedgley said the Green Party would not be able to support District Health Boards if they were not able to be open and accountable to the public, and she would be writing formally to the Health Minister with her concerns.


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