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Just Plain Stupid

ATTENTION: HEALTH REPORTER NO. OF PAGES: 1

MEDIA STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE,
TUESDAY 12 JUNE 2001

“Just Plain Stupid”

“The attempt to gag district health board chief executives from speaking publicly on policy issues is just plain stupid,” said Mr Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, today.

Mr Powell was commenting on the instruction reportedly given yesterday by Health Minister Annette King that chief executives should only speak publicly on “operational matters” but not policy.

“It is impossible to effectively distinguish between operational and policy matters. For example, funding levels are critical to the range and quality of patient services that can be provided. Few people are as well qualified to comment on these matters as chief executives.”

“If there is one lesson that politicians should have learnt over the past decade, it is that gagging doesn’t work. It also makes a mockery of the Labour Party’s claims before the last election that it wanted more openness, transparency and democracy in the health system.”

“Chief executives are now placed an absurd position. If they use their unique knowledge to publicly tell the truth they will be dammed by the government and they will be dammed by doctors and nurses if they don’t.”

“It is alarming that since the lead-up to the Budget the health sector has degenerated to virtual unarmed rebellion. Unless there is a drastic change in the implementation of policy, a head-on conflict between government and the health sector seems tragically inevitable.”

“If by some wild stretch of the imagination senior doctors are next on the gagging list, then don’t even fantasise about it,” concluded Mr Powell.

Ian Powell
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

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