Clark appoints commissioner after Waikato DHB board resigns

New Zealand Health Minister David Clark has appointed former director-general of health Karen Poutasi to run the Waikato District Health Board after the majority of the board resigned amid the DHB's worsening financial and governance crisis.

Nine of the 11 board members resigned last month following sharp criticism from Dr Clark over the board's performance, which has seen a deteriorating financial position and problems recruiting a permanent CEO.

Much of the crisis has come about following the decision to appoint the now disgraced former CEO Nigel Murray, who was forced to resign over a spending scandal. Dr Murray also oversaw the failed Smart Health initiative.

The scandal also claimed the scalp of former board chair Bob Simcock, who stood down over criticism of his recruitment of Dr Murray and lack of oversight of his expenses.

Since then, the DHB has found it difficult to recruit a CEO, with acting CEO Derek Wright finishing up in April.

In a letter to Dr Clark, board chair Sally Webb acknowledged that Dr Clark had lost confidence in the board and that continuing bad publicity over its performance had had an adverse effect on the whole DHB. It had also affected the board's ability to recruit a permanent CEO, she said.

Dr Clark said Dr Poutasi would take up the role of commissioner on May 8.

“After careful consideration of the submissions from Board members, I have decided that the appointment of a Commissioner is necessary to lead the significant changes required at the DHB,” Dr Clark said in a statement.

“In their submissions nine of the 11 board members offered to resign. I think that reflects the seriousness of the challenges they have been dealing with.”

Dr Poutasi is a former medical doctor who was director-general of health for 11 years from 1995 to 2006, during which time she set up a primary healthcare strategy. She has also held management, clinical and chief executive roles at Dunedin Hospital, Middlemore Hospital and Wellington Area Health Board.

She is currently CEO of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, where she will continue on a part-time basis.

Posted in Movers and shakers

Tags: Waikato DHB, HealthTap, SmartHealth, Nigel Murray

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