A Commissioner has been appointed for the Waikato District Health Board to address it's "deteriorating financial position, lack of strong governance, and ongoing performance issues", the Health Minister announced today.
Former Director General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi will take up the Commissioner’s role from tomorrow, replacing the Board.
"After careful consideration of the submissions from Board members, I have decided that the appointment of a Commissioner is necessary to lead the significant changes required at the DHB," David Clark said in a statement today.
In their submissions, nine of the 11 Board members offered to resign, which Mr Clark said reflects reflects the seriousness of the challenges they have been dealing with.
"While I thank Board members for their service, installing a Commissioner is a necessary step towards addressing the DHB’s deteriorating financial position, lack of strong governance, and ongoing performance issues with clinical services," he said.
Waikato’s financial performance has deteriorated sharply. In 2017/18 they reported a deficit of $37.2 million, and a $56.1 million deficit is expected for 2018/19. There are also increasing deficit forecasts in future years.
As well, the ongoing performance issues with clinical services are concerning, Mr Clark said. The DHB has been unable to recruit a permanent chief executive.
"I have consistently made it clear to DHB chairs that I expect them to be careful stewards of our health system and deliver quality services to their communities. Where those expectations are not met I have a range of options available, including appointing a Commissioner," he said.
Dr Poutasi has skills and a background, including 11 years as a Director-General of Health, which Mr Clark believes she will use to tackle the issues at the DHB.
"I have made my expectations clear to Dr Poutasi on the significant changes that are required to improve the DHB’s financial and clinical performance," Mr Clark said. "I also expect robust governance arrangements to continue, particularly community and iwi engagement.
"To give Dr Poutasi time to get on top of the DHB’s issues I plan to introduce legislation to cancel the October 2019 elections for Waikato. That means the return to an elected board would follow the 2022 elections.
Dr Poutasi will be on unpaid leave from her role as chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority when undertaking Commissioner duties, which are expected to require about two or three full-time days a week.
She will also continue at NZQA on a part-time basis.
Deputy Commissioner appointments will be made by the Commissioner in a timely manner.