25 Jun 2020

Ashley Bloomfield, David Clark continue to back each other

5:28 pm on 25 June 2020

Health Minister David Clark says he and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have both been let down and are now working on fixing the problems at hand. But National says the relationship between the two has broken down.

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Health Minister David Clark at the fore and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at the back. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The health minister has refused to apologise to Bloomfield following accusations he threw him under the bus for blunders at the border.

Yesterday Clark said Bloomfield had accepted the responsibility that testing protocol had not been followed.

Clark took responsibility for fixing the blunder.

Today when asked if he would apologise to Bloomfield, he avoided answering the question.

"We're very lucky to have a public servant of his calibre in the role that he is in. I have confidence in him. I stand by my comments of yesterday," Clark said.

He said he and Bloomfield had been let down and now they were focused on fixing the problems.

"I have ministerial responsibility for the whole health system and I am very clear about that," he said.

Michael Woodhouse

Michael Woodhouse. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

National health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said there was no doubt that mistakes had been made.

"David Clark has treated Dr Bloomfield appallingly. This is a hard working public servant who by and large has worked tremendously well through a difficult period and for him to be treated the way he was yesterday is absolutely appalling.

"But given that the Director-General was the de facto minister as well as the Director-General for so long because Dr Clark was absent, I think it is an appalling response to a public servant who has worked tirelessly to keep this country safe," Woodhouse said.

He said Clark should take responsibility.

"As ministers even when we might not have day-to-day control of what is going on ... ultimately the buck stops with them, but there seems to be a complete disconnect between the trimmings that David Clark gets as Minister of Health and the responsibilities that go with it."

Woodhouse said it was clear that the relationship between the two had broken down.

"I think Dr Bloomfield is clearly feeling completely undermined by his minister and does not feel the minister has his back," he said.

Woodhouse called Clark "the very definition as a non-essential worker".

"We certainly need someone to be the minister of health and right now it is not David Clark," he said.

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Ashley Bloomfield at the back. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Dr Bloomfield made no comment when asked about Clark's comments about him at today's media briefing.

He said he had a good working relationship with the minister.

"I continue to work and support the minister and his work," Dr Bloomfield said.

"I just remain focused on, as I have since the start of this, doing the best possible job I can and we continue to remain focused on keeping New Zealanders safe ... I just want to give a shout out to my team who are working incredibly hard to continue doing that.

"We'll keep supporting the minister and all New Zealanders to keep them safe from Covid-19," Dr Bloomfield said.

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