Reports of a ‘huge spend-up’ by the outgoing Director-General shows just how out of touch the Ministry of Health is with the ‘real world’ of cash-strapped hospitals and clinical staff shortages, says the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.

Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association (ASMS) was commenting on recent reports that Director-General Chai Chuah spent $233,258 to fly overseas facilitators to New Zealand to run workshops for Ministry of Health staff and others,Mc including staff connected to a Silicon Valley think-tank where he spent $31,000 attending a nine-day course earlier in 2017. The former Director-General was due to work his last day on February 2 after resigning in early December.

The workshops were based on the concept of ‘disruptive innovation’, which Ian Powell described as “a nonsense”.

“It’s a distraction thought up by people who live in bubbles,” said Powell. “Chai Chuah became obsessed with technology and over time lost perspective. Technology is an enabler, not a driver of change.”

He says the new Director-General needs to bring the Ministry back into the real world of the public health sector.  The Health Ministry and health workforce need to be aligned, not on different planets.

“There are major, ongoing challenges which need urgent attention, including under-funded, the poor leadership culture evident among health bosses, and longstanding specialist workforce shortages.”

Former Director-General Stephen McKernan has been seconded to work as Acting Director-General while the Ministry recruits a replacement for Chuah.  McKernan took up the post of acting Director General and Ministry chief executive on Monday.

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