19 Feb 2019

Waikato DHB forced to halt recruitment of CEO citing 'challenges'

12:33 pm on 19 February 2019

Waikato District Health Board has put its search for a permanent chief executive on hold as it grapples with what it calls "current challenges".

Waikato Hospital

Photo: Supplied / Waikato DHB / Facebook

DHB chairperson Sally Webb said it was crucial to find a chief executive who could take the organisation forward and now was not the right time to continue with the appointment process.

The prospective candidates have been informed, and she said the board would discuss the next steps on Wednesday next week.

Derek Wright will remain interim chief executive as he has been since the former chief Nigel Murray quit in October 2017 after an investigation into his overspending of DHB money.

The DHB was criticised last week for challenging a coroner's decision on the death of Nicky Stevens.

The coroner had ruled the death was a preventable suicide, but the DHB has sought a fresh inquiry.

Dave Macpherson, Nicky's father and Waikato DHB board member, said halting the appointment process was evidence that the bad publicity from from from the DHB's attempt to reopen the inquiry was causing a "chaotic leadership situation" in the organisation.

Mr MacPherson hoped new leadership will mean a change of heart. "They'll withdraw their demand to have a new coroner's hearing and let us actually start the healing process. I guess we're not going to hold our breath waiting for that though, unfortunately," Mr MacPherson said.

Health Minister David Clark said the appointment process was a matter for the DHB.

"I'm assured that the DHB has given this due consideration. They need to do this process right, they need to make sure it's robust and they need to get the best possible candidate," Mr Clark said.

Other recent issues at the DHB

The DHB has one of the worst deficits in the country and last year was told to improve its recruitment and complaints processes after the Health and Disability Commissioner found the DHB had breached peoples' rights by not making sure a doctor was fit to practice there.

In 2018 it was also forced to pull the plug on a multi-million dollar app and online doctor service - technology seen as a priority by Mr Murray during his tenure - after it didn't attract enough users.

In 2017 it lost its accreditation to assess the safety of drinking water because of incompetence and failed to meet some key government health targets. Board chair Bob Simcock resigned after a damning report by the Office of the Auditor-General in the Murray expenses scandal. Mr Simcock faced criticism over his hiring of Dr Murray, with senior doctors and a former MP saying they had warned him against it.

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