Labour MP for Dunedin Northand Health Minister David Clark says he wants only health board chairmen who are “on board” with the coalition government. Photo/File

Opposition leader Bill English says the Government is playing politics with its “brutal” blanket approach to the health sector.

Health Minister David Clark told Radio New Zealand this morning that he is looking at replacing the chairmen of District Health Boards that are not “on the same wavelength” as the Government.

He was “very seriously considering” asking for resignation letters from each of the 20 DHBs, but added that the current political appointments “by and large have shown themselves to be very competent”.

Health ministers can appoint the chairman, deputy chairman, and up to four members of each DHB board.

English said that the only time he could recall asking for resignation letters was during the health reforms of the 1990s, when everything had to change.

He said the Government should feel free to look at certain issues, but a blanket request for resignation was “highly politicised”.

“How can they possibly know what wavelength this Government is on on health? Other than spend more money, and I’m sure they’ll all agree with that,” English said.

“I’m extremely disappointed. I thought the Jacinda Ardern Government would be different. It turns out it’s just the same old Labour, trying to do its brutal tactics on the public service.”

Clark said he was taking advice to make sure he was following the right processes. If he asked for resignation letters, he would then decide which to accept. He also reserved the right as minister to sack a board appointment.

“I want to be sure that the district health board chairs … are in agreement with the current government’s agenda and direction. I need them to be on board with where we’re heading.

“Let’s be realistic, these are professional people who have been managing in a very difficult climate with constrained resources, and our sector overall does deliver really good patient outcomes.”

Current chairmen include Dr Lester Levy, who heads all three Auckland DHBs; Hawke’s Bay businessman Andrew Blair, who heads the two Wellington-based DHBs; former diplomat John Wood, who is chairman of Canterbury; and Waikato DHB’s Bob Simcock, a member of the National Party.

Clark said he had a willingness to listen and is keen to visit DHBs and meet their chairmen.

Source: NZ Herald

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