If I could put myself in the position of the Board of the CDHB they must be wondering how the hell they can get out of their self-inflicted hole. In their worst nightmares they would not be expecting to be staring into a massive hole of having to replace 7 of the 11 of their senior management team.
How can we find a solution to the current CDHB debacle
a) The Crown monitor:
When Ian Powell told us last week that 3 CEO’s had resigned under Lester Levy when he was appointed as a DHB Chair by the National Party. Now another has resigned after he had this time been appointed as Crown Monitor at CDHB by the Labour Party. That’s a scarily impressive casualty rate.
When I listened to Kathryn Ryan interviewing Lester Levy last Monday, his presentation was far from convincing. He sounded more like a politician than a finance man. It’s concerning when somebody makes comments which suggest that CDHB financial reports were presented late, or were not comprehensive. This is extremely unfair on those who stand accused and have a professional career as a CFO, or a CEO, in front of them and who have no chance to respond to the accusations. It’s a low form of accusation.
Lester Levy has a style which has not worked at the CDHB as the number of resignations demonstrate. He should be relieved of his duties.
b. The Ministry of Health:
This week the Minister of Health sent Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-General of the organisation which has caused most of the problem with the CDHB, down to assess how things are going in Canterbury. This is difficult to understand. Why wasn’t the Minister down here? This is a political crisis. It should not be treated just as a technical dispute over finances. It’s way past that. This approach seems to suggest that the CDHB staff are wrong and the Board just needs to be revved up and supported.
Let us also remember that the MOH are under serious scrutiny right now how they have messed up the scrutiny of our borders. This very fallible institution which is sitting in judgement of an organisation which has shown them up many times.
It appears that there are three players. Firstly, a Government Department; then the health institution that spends taxpayer funds; then a Board largely populated by people the Minister’s party appointed. Then Minister Hipkins sent down somebody who, no matter how scrupulously he behaves, leads one of the parties in the dispute. That just doesn’t make sense.
It would be hard to find a better example of a technocratic approach to leadership than how Chris Hipkins, who I have been impressed by in the past, behaved this week. It’s a page straight out of the Pontius Pilot book of how to handle a problem, whilst desperately trying to keep his hands clean. That’s not possible here now, Chris. It’s wade in time.
What I’d really like to ask was what solutions the Board presented to Ashley Bloomfield on Thursday.
c) So, what should happen to the Board:
If I were on the CDHB Board, I would be asking myself why, having participated in the decision making which created this disaster leading to the loss of most of the senior management of the organisation, shouldn’t I not do the honourable thing and resign. If this doesn’t happen naturally, the Minister should make the decision for them. I say this with a sense of grief as some of the Board members are really good friends of mine. However, this isn’t about personal relationships. It’s about basic governance. The Board has massively failed to ensure that the institution remains properly managed. They have made ginormous mistakes. However, they must learn and move on to live for another day. They aren’t bad people. They have just been badly led.
d) Looking after the staff and services of CDHB:
I attended the demonstration organised by the staff of the CDHB which was held outside the room where Bloomfield was meeting the Board. As the demonstration took place a Board member, Jamie Gough, went across the room and pulled the blind down. My response to this action would be to say, do not adjust your mind Jamie, reality may be at fault.
The demo was again remarkable. These weren’t the sort of rabble you witness at the normal gathering I might attend with Murray Horton and crew behind a banner, and John Minto with his megaphone with gay whales for peace printed on our t-shirts. These were surgeons and nurses dressed in their operating theatre uniforms. These were deeply distressed professionals requiring accountability. They were standing alongside their leaders, David Meates and his team, and challenging the authenticity of the leadership of the Board of CDHB and their masters, the Director-General of Health and the Ministry he leads.
Here’s the photo I took outside. The bulk of people attending were down the street underneath the Board room.
Here’s one of the posters which appealed
e) The way forward:
After the Board has been removed an independent group must be appointed who can be challenged with the task of finding workable solutions to the current crisis. Not the current Crown Monitor, but a wise group of people from Canterbury with connections and a sense of compassion toward our precious institution. Not just another Brian Roche type from Wellington. These people need to be local leaders and it must be more than one person. They need a sensible mix of financial, professional, common-sense and humane people who are deeply committed to this community.