27 Aug 2020

Bloomfield should axe CDHB says board member: 'Mend the relationships'

7:51 pm on 27 August 2020

Hundreds of protesters greeted Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield when he arrived at a meeting with Canterbury District Health Board which is facing steep financial cuts amid the exit of most of its management team.

Protesters gather outside of the Canterbury Health Board corporate office on 20 August.

The protesters are concerned about the loss of senior executives and the board's proposed cuts. [file pic] Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

The top public health official called the meeting after seven of the board's top executives resigned in recent weeks, and as the board attempts to make $57 million of savings to its budget.

About 300 protesters concerned about the loss of senior executives and the board's proposed cuts, many of them CDHB staff, met Dr Bloomfield when he arrived at the CDHB offices in Christchurch this morning.

Dr Bloomfield briefly stopped to speak to the crowd, thanking them for their professionalism in recent months and years.

In footage taken by Stuff, Dr Bloomfield said he was interested in constructive and collective action and said he could see collective action from the crowd today.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The meeting with the board lasted about an hour, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said Dr Bloomfield would not comment publicly on the outcome, but would report back to the Minister of Health.

Mend the relationships, board member says

One of the board members at the meeting, Jo Kane, said in the meeting Dr Bloomfield spoke to the board briefly and then said he wanted to hear from the board members.

She said most of the other board members told Dr Bloomfield that they were confident they could progress the annual plan, however, she had different advice.

"What he needed to do is get rid of the board, get rid of the Crown Monitor and then put in somebody who can start, effectively, a grieving process and mend the relationships and the partnerships and get the CDHB back doing what it does best."

She said the three-year delay in completing the new Hagley building and the ongoing effects of the earthquakes are still causing ongoing issues, and cost pressures.

Dr Sandy Richardson, the chair of the College of Emergency Nurses for the Nurses Organisation, was one of those at the protest this morning.

This is the second protest in recent weeks, and she said the numbers turning out were growing.

"It was amazing to see how many people actually came out and were present," said Dr Richardson, "and it was a good mix. At the first protest it was predominantly nursing staff with a mix of other health professionals.

"At the second meeting there was a much wider representation of ... members of the public and wide numbers of very varied health professionals. People were there and they were passionate and they were wanting to make a difference."

Possible nursing cuts cause concern

Dr Richardson said staff were worried about the suggestion that there could be a $13 million cut in the nursing costs.

She said nurses were often the first target for staffing cuts, which is a complete failure to comprehend how vital nurses are and the role they play.

Public Service Association national secretary Kerry Davies said the problems with the board were causing a huge amount of anxiety for CDHB staff.

She was hoping the Ministry of Health would step in and remove the financial pressures on the CDHB.

"It is important to note that a lot of this debt that they are talking about arose post the earthquake and involved the rebuilding of the hospital, so it's not really taking into account the unique circumstances that that area has had to deal with."

A spokesperson for the Canterbury District Health Board said the board would not be making any statements about private meetings.

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