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Flavell: Urgent Debate - Hawkes Bay DHB

Urgent Debate: 4 March 2008

Hawkes Bay DHB

Te ururoa flavell, member for waiariki

Mr Speaker, three days ago one of the most comical of press releases was issued under the name of the Director-General of Health.

The humour came in the statement from the Director-General advising that the inquiry into conflict of interest issues in the Hawkes Bay DHB Board would be released in just over a fortnight.

It said, and I quote, “it is important to follow due process” and further, “I have acted to protect the integrity of the process involved in the report’s release”. End of quote.

Due process and integrity, Mr Speaker, are concepts that have been sadly lacking in this saga of the Hawkes Bay DHB.

Other members have described the involvement of the former Minister of Health, her husband and Mr Pete Hausmann.

During the course of events, as is known now, the Government-appointed member of the board was alleged to be involving himself in a $50 million DHB tendering process that could have benefited his own company.

Following yet another leaked email discussion, the chairperson of the Board discovers the contractual negotiations that are going on – and an embarrassed Government was forced to call for an inquiry.

One might have thought that things would quieten down – well, give or take the odd employment dispute that ensued from the fiasco.

Mr Speaker, time rolls on, and in the local government elections, the people of Hawkes Bay respond by universally re-electing the Board and its chair.

In rides the keen new Health Minister, David Cunliffe, determined to leave his mark. He sacked the entire board, claiming they were ‘dysfunctional’ and that the concerns were warranted over a “rapidly deteriorating” financial situation.

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party is the first to say that accountability and transparency are laudable goals, goals which every agent of Government should take seriously.

If there are governance and management issues at stake, we would expect that there be support and investment to get any DHB on to the right track.

But, and it is an important but, such measures should never ride roughshod over the wishes and aspirations of the people.

What did the people living in the rohe of Ngati Kahungunu have to say about their DHB? What did Maori health providers in this area think of the way in which their DHB responded to the needs of their community?

What does this action say about the respect for democracy?

Mr Speaker, this was an elected process, in which the people voted and selected a Board.

It was extremely significant that all five Mayors of the Hawkes Bay signed a joint letter supporting the Chair of the Board, as having, and I quote: “the clear confidence of the community as the highest polling candidate in the October 2007 election”.

These members - speaking on behalf of 150 thousand people- should have been listened to.

And yet, just 72 days after the re-elected Board took office, 72 days, the Government intervenes and takes action on high, against the people of the Hawkes Bay.

As the Napier Public Health Group stated recently, and I quote:

“It illustrates the arrogant misuse of power and contempt for democracy that has be-deviled public health provision in Hawkes Bay, and Napier in particular, for years”.

Mr Speaker, if it was good enough to sack this DHB for financial management and governance issues, let’s be consistent here.

What about the 182 serious mistakes involving patients? Mistakes like :

- one patient died from being prescribed another patient’s diabetes medication;

- a baby died after showing heart rate irregularities during labour; and

- a psychiatric inpatient committed suicide.

Who would have expected such serious and sentinel events to take place?

The problem extended across twelve district health boards, Mr Speaker, with particular concern expressed about Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury and Waitemata boards.

Did we hear anything about the sacking these people? NO!

What about the study from Professor Peter Davis, which surveyed a sample of 6579 patients admitted to thirteen hospitals, and found that Maori were more likely to receive sub-optimum care. What about them?

Financial debts can be sorted with the stroke of a pen. If we want to help out an airline, or quickly get some funds pulled out to win votes in election year, the money doesn’t seem to be a problem then.

The ongoing serious and sentinel events that have ended in death, the malpractice, the negligence on the largest degree – now that is something that we might consider as being a sackable offence.

As a Parliament Mr Speaker, we must insist on safety, on quality and on transparency in the way in which we run our hospitals.

The Maori Party knows that to accept anything less, is to compromise on the very quality of life.

Our people – and that’s all our peoples – deserve to know that when they go to hospital, every effort will be made to improve their health and wellbeing.


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