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Greens back call for DHB reform

24 August, 2004

Greens back call for DHB reform

The Green Party is urging the Government to guarantee freedom of speech and greater autonomy to District Health Boards, ahead of this year's local body elections.

Green health spokesperson, Sue Kedgley is backing calls today for change from respected Christchurch District Health Board member, Professor Philip Bagshaw, who describes DHBs as dysfunctional and undemocratic.

"The primary role of DHBs at present is to act as scapegoats when things go wrong," said Ms Kedgley. "The Green Party would support any move by Government to guarantee them freedom of speech, make them more accountable to their communities and give them financial independence.

"The government promised local democracy through elected members on District Health Boards. But by law elected members are accountable to the Minister of Health and her officials, not the people who elect them.

"When they were set up, and elections held three years ago, most people thought they would operate as genuinely democratic institutions like local Councils. Instead elected representatives have found themselves muzzled and unable to act as strong advocates for the people who elected them."

Ms Kedgley noted that DHBs were strange hybrids that did not operate as local democratic institutions like Councils but also were forbidden the financial autonomy and independence exercised by corporate boards.

"If they are to be democratic and effective, we need to give them greater autonomy and financial independence," said Ms Kedgley. "The Government cannot afford to ignore informed proponents of change, like Professor Bagshaw and Capital Coast DHB's Helene Ritchie.

"If the Government is as genuinely interested in local democracy and participation in our health system as it claims then it should listen to voices of concern in our community, not dismiss them out of hand."


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