The appointment of former Labour health minister Peter Hodgson to replace the sacked chair of the Dunedin Hospital rebuild project is ‘jeopardising the tough timetable’ set, says National health spokesman.  But the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) says it welcomes the Government’s decision and want more local clinical input.

National’s Coleman and ASMS were responding to news of the sacking of two members of the Southern Partnership Group that was set up in 2015 to oversee the rebuilding of the Dunedin Hospital.

The Otago Daily times reported today that Peter Hodgson, a former health minister and Dunedin North MP, had been appointed by new minister Dr David Clark to lead the group after Hawke’s Bay consultant Andrew Blair had his contract terminated.  Auckland consultant Tony Lanigan has also been replaced by University of Otago chief operating officer Stephen Willis.

Clark is quoted as saying he was frustrated by the years of delay and stalling on the project but he did not blame Blair for those delays.  Labour’s election promise was for construction on a new hospital to start before the 2020 election.

Coleman said Clark had been very critical of the rebuild and had set himself some ‘tough timelines”.

He said the annoucment of Pete Hodgson as the new chair of the Southern Partnership Group was exactly the wrong move for progressing the rebuild as it would now be determined by political interests.

“Andrew Blair has done an excellent job as chair of the Southern Partnership Group and Tony Lanigan added professional expertise that has now been thrown out the window with the appointment of Clark’s political mentor and predecessor as MP for Dunedin North as well as another local person to the Southern Partnership Group.

But Ian Powell, the executive director of ASMS said it was important that the partnership group was not dominated by people with limited local knowledge of the specific health needs of those who will be using Dunedin Hospital.

“It’s a sensible move to stand down Andrew Blair, who has limited knowledge of the wider Southern DHB region’s hospital needs. His hospital experience is limited to much smaller and less complex private hospitals.”

Mr Powell said the creation of ‘partnership groups’ was a recent mechanism established by the former government to give the Ministry of Health control over major hospital rebuilds. He said the effect was to marginalise the DHBs involved – in this case, Southern DHB, but also West Coast and Canterbury DHBs.

“It is critically important that the Health Minister requires that what services are to be provided (and how) is based on extensive clinical leadership.  It is hospital specialists and other health professionals that possess the greatest expertise in this.  If this doesn’t happen then poor decisions are guaranteed.”



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