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Dr David Clark has announced that former Director General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi will take up the Commissioner’s role, effective from tomorrow.

“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,” David Clark says.

“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.

“While I thank Board members for their service, installing a Commissioner is a necessary step towards addressing the DHB’s deteriorating financial position, lack of strong governance, and ongoing performance issues with clinical services.

“Waikato’s financial performance has deteriorated sharply. In 2017/18 they reported a deficit of $37.2 million, and they are forecasting a $56.1 million deficit for 2018/19 with increasing deficit forecasts in future years.

“Despite the efforts by the Crown Monitor there has been limited progress due to instability at a governance level. The ongoing performance issues with clinical services are concerning – as is the DHB’s inability to recruit a permanent chief executive.

“I have consistently made it clear to DHB chairs that I expect them to be careful stewards of our health system and deliver quality services to their communities. Where those expectations are not met I have a range of options available, including appointing a Commissioner.

“Dr Karen Poutasi has the ideal background and skills to tackle the issues at the DHB. She has strong governance skills and significant health sector experience, including 11 years as Director-General of Health.

“I have made my expectations clear to Dr Poutasi on the significant changes that are required to improve the DHB’s financial and clinical performance. I also expect robust governance arrangements to continue, particularly community and iwi engagement.

“To give Dr Poutasi time to get on top of the DHB’s issues I plan to introduce legislation to cancel the October 2019 elections for Waikato. That means the return to an elected board would follow the 2022 elections.

“Dr Poutasi will be on unpaid leave from her role as Chief Executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority when undertaking Commissioner duties, which are expected to require about two or three full-time days a week. She will also continue at NZQA on a part-time basis.

“Deputy Commissioner appointments will be made by the Commissioner in a timely manner.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank the Board members for their hard work and contribution. However, a new approach is needed to ensure Waikato DHB can return to a sustainable pathway and continue to provide their local community with access to the high quality health services they deserve,” David Clark said.

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