A good mate of mine text me the other day. He was commenting on David Meates being pushed out of CDHB. His comment was “here is a great example of ethics being pushed aside by economics”. To this I would add, bad economics.
How long, South Island New Zealand, will we remain at the mercy of Wellington technocrats and the dumb politicians, of all parties, who dance to their tune?
The term “Faustian plot” comes to mind with what has happened at the CDHB this week. A quick reminder about this old German fable. In the fable Faust called on the devil for further powers to promote his own powers, pleasures and knowledge of the world. The devil’s representative, Mephistopheles, appears and makes a bargain with Faust. Mephistopheles will serve Faust for a number of years, but in the end, the Devil will claim Faust’s soul.
The players in this “Faustian plot” are firstly an obstinate bureaucracy in Wellington which has been constantly shown up by a great local leader, David Meates and his team.
In the German myth the ambitious Faust surrenders their moral integrity in order to achieve power and success for a limited term. The big question, in my mind, and in that of everybody I have spoken to, is who is Mephistopheles in this local drama? Is it one person? Is it a small number of people? Is it the system, or the culture, which is not serving us properly? The drama’s sub-plot has obviously been “get rid of David Meates”.
We have had David speak to the Tuesday Club twice. Each time people came away in awe of what a brilliant public servant we had leading CDHB, who was right on the top of his game. We also had an address by Ta Mark Solomon, then the Chair of the Board. Mark had replaced the previous chair appointed by the then Government who had to resign after public pressure. Mark came across as a person who had carefully arrived at his own opinion about the state of CDHB. He had satisfied himself that the information supplied to him by the executive at CDHB was correct; despite what the Minister and the Ministry of Health were saying. Mark was as impressive with his grasp of data as David Meates.
One thing which is common at DHBs is that there is great tension between administrators and senior clinicians. I’m not sure why, but it happens often.
But it didn’t surprise me when the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director, Sarah Dalton, said senior clinicians had backed Meates, and that the board had made the wrong call in allegedly forcing him out. This is a testimony to a great leader, respected by most in the Health Sector; apart from the Wellington bureaucracy. This quote from her sets out pretty clearly her organisation’s view, and is remarkable:
“The Board has repeatedly failed to listen to the advice of its senior management and clinical leaders and in my view has acted unethically. The chair should have the courage to stand up to the Government and speak up for Cantabrians instead of asking DHB management to force cuts to healthcare and facilities that will ultimately leave the health system unfit for purpose – and potentially unsafe”.
Here is a really good article in the Press, unfortunately one of the authors has just left the Press just when we needed his phone list in overdrive:
During the week I read about former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe, who worked in a business liaison role at the national command centre in Wellington during the state of national emergency who said:
“It was clear to me, when I was camped out down in Wellington … one of the weaknesses [of central government] is they are not agile, departments are territorial, and hold on to ideas long after the information has moved on.”
As I read this it struck me how accurate this description was of the Ministry of Health, and probably Treasury. The sad thing is it also reflects badly on Cabinet Ministers, and appointees to positions, who become lackies of this Ministry.
Let us reflect on David Meates’ time leading CDHB. Here are some of the issues which he, and his able team, have had to confront in his time as CEO:
- Earthquakes in Canterbury which delivered thousands of injured people to the hospital over a number of years, who were all treated and supported.
- Massive mental health challenges for those severely affected by the earthquakes.
- The Kaikoura earthquakes.
- The Mosque murders and the treatment of those who were dying and those were severely injured.
- The White Island disaster.
- Covid 19.
- The West Coast system virtually collapsing.
- An administration in the Ministry of Health which has been determined to break the wills of those leading our CDHB.
Every one of these events demanded incredible leadership supporting, and enabling, those who were on the front line. This was a huge challenge on its own.
I find it hard to believe that David Meates resigned voluntarily. I have no proof of this. However, having personally judged the man and listened to the amazing reports from those who worked with him, it makes me think that this is another scene in our Faustian drama.
Another point is people like David Meates are persistent and hard to shift. The fact that he is going in a month is uncharacteristic behaviour by a loyal and honourable man. I can’t prove anything but I smell something fishy. What actually happened will be found out sooner or later.
Let us go back to the last Government. The then Minister of Health seemed to dismiss the needs of this area. The CEO of the Ministry also seemed to have it in for the CDHB. Then this man was sent down the road for a variety of matters.
The point which hacks me off is that the Labour Government has continued the onslaught. When David Clark was opposition spokesman on Health he was all over David Meates and his team. They were his best mates. What happened when he became Minister? Was he required to forget all his previous relationship building and comply with the MOH agenda?
Ta Mark Solomon was obviously not malleable enough for Wellington bureaucrats, and their lackey politicians. Enter, side stage, the latest Chair, Sir John Hansen. A man with a reputation for his quiet negotiation skills, and tolerant approach toward anybody who had any opinion which differed from his. What skills did Hansen have which Mark Solomon didn’t?
Here’s a really good article from Newsroom:
I will make one prediction. Watch the Board, which has let us down so badly, appoint Lester Levy as acting CEO.
Over the next few weeks, we will join with others disgusted at what has happened to the amazing team at CDHB. This decision may well reflect badly on the Labour vote in this area.
Here’s a few comments which I found interesting over the past few days:
The chair of the West Coast DHB, Rick Barker, confirmed he was told on Monday that Meates intended to resign. This was before the CDHB Board had been informed…
On the raft of resignations, he says: “People do leave and I’m not going to get overly wound up about this.”
This demonstrates that his loyalty is more to the Labour Party, of which he was once an MP, than to a magnificent public servant and the Health system which is far more important than political affiliation.
- “He has been an outstanding leader” MOH Chief Executive Ashley Bloomfield. What an awful hollow statement. His Ministry completely rubbished David Meates whenever they could. Staying silent would have been more dignified, Ashley.
- “It has been an extraordinary decade for our City…from the earthquakes, to the rebuild of health services and the Mosque shootings. He has got us through” Megan Woods. Nice words but were you there, Megan, when David Meates needed support in Wellington?
I will conclude with a quote from the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Executive Director, Sarah Dalton.
“Staff feel really embattled…and now their leader has been taken out”
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