Radio New Zealand has been leaked a policy paper suggesting that a radical change in the way Health Boards are run is being investigated. Currently there are up to 11 board members in each board with 7 positions being elected and four appointed by the Minister of Health. The proposal is that board size is reduced to 9 with six being appointed by the Minister and three serving six months terms and being selected from a community advisory committee which I presume would be elected.
Annette King was scathing about the proposal. As reported by Radio New Zealand:
Labour health spokesperson Annette King said the move was a major push to centralise the control of health into the Director General’s office.
“The recommendations, apart from reducing the size of District Health Boards, are also looking to get rid of some of the structures that are in place like the National Health Board and so on.
“The bigger concern to me is this is a very sneaky move to take away democracy from District Health Boards by having the majority of members appointed by the Minister, so the Minister’s stooges become those that make the decisions in the community, and not the majority community members as it now is.”
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman was also interviewed by Guyon Espiner. He said that he had no idea about the proposal, it was from a “third party”, and that that it was a “stolen report”.
As to his first claim this is startling. This is not some jot an idea on the back of an envelope proposal. A paper has been prepared and circulated for comment. Chief executives and chairs of boards have been summonsed to a meeting this week with the Director General of Health and teleconferences were held last week. The proposal has that well down the path feeling about it. There is no way that something this contentious would not be communicated to the Minister’s office.
His second claim is also startling. This is not some independent organisation it is the office of the Director General of Health who was appointed by the Government and reports directly to the Minister of Health.
His third claim, that the report is “stolen” is the same thing the Government used to say about Dirty Politics. Someone should tell him the difference between whistleblowing and stealing.
Annette King was scathing about Coleman’s comments and said she did not believe him. Perhaps he is exceedingly incompetent rather than dishonest. How the proposal is treated will allow us to make a better judge of this.
But I get the strong sense that yet another local democratic institution is in the process of being dismantled and power is being concentrated in the Minister’s office.