“The Ministry of Health report on Waikato DHB is a useful critique of its performance rather than the body slam it has been portrayed as,” says Ian Powell, Executive Director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS).
“It’s been described as a damning report on the DHB but in fact it is a very constructive review of the areas the DHB is doing well in and also where it needs to improve. That’s going to be good information for the DHB’s new chief executive to have as he or she gets to grips with the challenges of providing health care in New Zealand’s current constrained environment.”
He says similar reviews of other DHBs, if carried out, would yield similar findings – and in some cases would be far more critical. For example, the Health Ministry’s report on Dunedin Hospital in 2011 called for urgent improvements saying that dedicated staff were being hampered by management, entrenched negative behaviours and poor decision-making processes. The Dunedin report was a real “slamming.”
A crucial aspect of improving DHB performance is ensuring that senior doctors and other clinical staff are involved in the decisions being made about services and have opportunities to provide leadership. As a result of two membership surveys, Mr Powell says the ASMS now has a much clearer picture of how well each DHB is performing when it comes to clinical engagement and leadership.
The results for each DHB are described in an upcoming issue of the ASMS’ quarterly magazine, The Specialist, which is due out in a fortnight. DHBs are grouped into five categories ranging from ‘pretty good’ to ‘in serious difficulties’. Waikato DHB is in the second category of ‘could do better but showing promise’, along with nine other DHBs.
“Waikato is one of the better performing DHBs when it comes to providing sufficient non-clinical time for senior doctors, although the results for the DHB’s level of commitment to clinical leadership are disappointing. They’re in the middle of the DHB pack – they’re doing some things right but we also think they could be doing better.”
However, he says the DHB has come in for justified criticism for the way it has responded to the Ministry of Health report and it should have acted to avoid the impression that has been left in people’s minds of a DHB on the defensive.
“With the media it has been like a possum in headlights, to be frank.”
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