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Health practitioners to take charge following DHB election

15 October 2019 Fiona Cassie - New Zealand Doctor

The voters of South Canterbury like to put their health practitioners in charge.

Following the elections which finished on Saturday, all seven elected positions on the region’s DHB will be filled by current or retired health practitioners. Four additional people can be appointed by the Minister of Health to each board.

Among the country’s 19 DHBs to hold elections – Waikato has a commissioner and did not hold one – a number of health practitioners have been voted in.

But South Canterbury has excelled at this, electing for the first time, GP Bruce Small. Another newly elected member is former associate health minister and nurse Jo Goodhew.

They join five re-elected members with health-workforce connections – retired pharmacist Ron Luxton, retired orthopaedic surgeon Peter Binns, physiotherapists Paul Annear and Rene Crawford, and former community nurse and Māori health adviser Raeleen de Joux.

Voice at the table for primary care

Dr Small says he stood for the DHB to give a voice for primary health at the board table – and to help South Canterbury avoid being “swallowed up” in any potential amalgamations resulting from the Health and Disability System Review.

A GP in Timaru for 34 years, Dr Small has served for nine years as the DHB’s primary care medical officer. He chose to seek election and not renew his medical officer contract as he felt he would have more traction that way.

He also believed having a GP on the board would ensure primary health had a “top down” voice in addition to having a primary care medical officer representing the sector from the “ground up”.

ED doctor re-elected to Southern after democracy sojourn

Further south, Dunedin emergency doctor John Chambers is one of two members of the sacked Southern DHB to be re-elected in the DHB’s first election since 2013.

Then-health minister Jonathan Coleman sacked the board in 2015 and replaced it with a commissioner.

Dr Chambers is a clinical senior lecturer in emergency medicine at the Dunedin School of Medicine and has been an advocate for the Dunedin Hospital ED as a senior member of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

Joining him on the board is Dunedin Hospital radiation oncologist Lyndell Kelly. Dr Kelly is also a clinical senior lecturer, in oncology, for the Dunedin School of Medicine.

Dr Chambers served 18 months of his first term before the sacking. He notes that despite the board’s removal being largely about financial matters, the situation seemed no better now and many concerning clinical issues had arisen too.

Pushing for accountability

He will be pushing for more of the new board’s business to be discussed in open meeting as he was concerned that too much was conducted in private in the past.

Dr Chambers says, for example, concerns about the DHB’s ophthalmology and gastroenterology services are likely to have been known about long before they came out in the media. He says going public earlier may have averted some of the problems by bringing attention more quickly to what matters to patients.

The new Southern DHB board officially meets for the first time on 9 December and will take over in the New Year from the commissioner.

Practice nurse elected to Canterbury DHB

At the Canterbury DHB, Naomi Marshall, a practice nurse at Riccarton Clinic, is one of three newly elected board members. She campaigned on access to mental health services, improved health equality for vulnerable populations and improving staff safety.

Unsuccessful in gaining a place was Christchurch GP and former RNZCGP board member Rochelle Phipps.

Auckland DHB voters returned registered nurse Jo Agnew, a teaching fellow at the University of Auckland School of Nursing.

Return after 30 years

Also making a return – after 30 years – is Peter Davis, the husband of former prime minister Helen Clark. Recently retired from his work in public health policy at the University of Auckland, Professor Davis was a member of the Auckland Area Health Board sacked by Ms Clark in 1989 when she was minister of health.

Wellington GP Chris Kalderimis has been elected to the Capital & Coast DHB.

He sold his share of Wellington practice City GPs in 2014 after being a partner for 35 years. Now a locum GP at Karori Medical Centre, he is involved in a group investigating, on behalf of the DHB and primary care, greater collaboration between primary and secondary care. He hopes to build on this work as a DHB member.

Equity campaigner gets Northland seat

Northland GP Kyle Eggleton, who campaigned on equity issues, has won a seat on the Northland DHB.

Dr Eggleton works for Māori health provider Ki A Ora Ngatiwai; he also holds a part-time post in the University of Auckland Department of General Practice.

“I’m coming into the DHB on a policy platform around strengthening primary care and ensuring that communities have the resources that they require and that services are delivered more in communities.”

“Primary care is more likely to have a greater improvement in a person’s health and wellbeing, rather than care delivered by a secondary care service,” Dr Eggleton says.

“I also want to address health inequities, especially for Māori in Northland. We have got some poor health statistics.”

Putting recruitment issues on agenda

Newly elected to the Wairarapa DHB, GP Tony Becker says one of the issues he hopes to deal with is difficulties in recruiting and retaining medical practitioners.

Dr Becker is clinical director of Masterton Medical, a former part-time ED doctor at Wairarapa Hospital and a former deputy DHB-primary care liaison officer.

He says the DHB’s shortages of surgeons and psychiatrists have caused problems in organising the care of patients. If the shortages can’t be solved locally, the DHB must negotiate better patient-treatment contracts with neighbouring DHBs.

Paediatrician Johan Morreau has been re-elected to the Lakes DHB.

At Nelson Marlborough DHB, the long-standing doctor and dietitian members were all re-elected. Marlborough GP and hospice medical officer Brigid Forrest, retired orthopaedic surgeon Allan Panting and retired vascular surgeon Stephen Vallance join former dietitian and board chair Jenny Black back on the board.

Frustration over referrals prompts stand

At the West Coast DHB, practice owner and nurse Nigel Ogilvie has been re-elected, along with retired psychiatric and general nurse Peter Neame.

Mr Ogilvie and GP wife Anna Dyzel have owned the Hokitika-based Westland Medical Centre for 20 years. Mr Ogilvie was prompted to stand by frustration at often having his patients turned away for specialist services at Grey Base Hospital.

Additional reporting by Martin Johnston