Last rites for Wellington’s health boards not without fuss

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Last rites for Wellington’s health boards not without fuss

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Capital Coast/ Hutt Valley board meeting
Going quietly into the night was not an option for the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley DHB boards

“I want to make sure people know about it. How do we know they will understand if we don’t tell them?”

Yesterday’s final gathering of the Capital and Coast and Hutt Valley DHB boards was an extended howl at work left undone.

If chair David Smol had been hoping to skip through the final rites without fuss, his plan was first derailed the handover letter to be left for their Health New Zealand replacements, and then by the rebuild at Hutt Hospital.

‘Once-over lightly’ 

Hutt Valley board member Prue Lamason got the ball rolling on the letter: “This is a once-over lightly, and I have a sick feeling it’s going to drop into a dark hole and Health New Zealand will just do their thing and we’ll see a continuation of the poor level of services given to women and children, particularly in Hutt Valley, where the services for birthing mothers are just pathetic and not fit for purpose.

“I want to make sure people know about it. How do we know they will understand if we don’t tell them?”

Hutt Valley’s maternity services were a recurring theme for Ms Lamason, who later withdrew a comment labelling their quality as “shitty” after officials complained she was attacking staff.

Fellow Hutt Valley member Josh Briggs chimed in: “We need to be honest about what is not working and where we want Health New Zealand to invest more, otherwise we’ll get three to five years of business as usual and we won’t get equity by 2030.”

Staffing crisis 

Board members also wanted the letter to reflect on the DHB’s inability to get a handle on recruitment, especially with midwives, where both DHBs are running with half the required staff, and their concern that pay inequity between primary and secondary care means the DHBs are now propping up their nursing rosters by poaching general practice staff.

DHB officials had already begun a rewrite when discussion moved on to an asset write-off of $2.3 million relating to the failed implementation of an integrated IT system.

Capital Coast board member Sue Kedgley was one of several wanting the issue included in the handover letter as a “clear lesson” in how projects can go wrong.

Extended debate 

Frowns deepened further when they reached Hutt Hospital’s earthquake-prone Heretaunga building, and a report from six engineers that had been commissioned in August 2021, with the draft arriving in March, and the final version just this month.

While acknowledging their discussion would have little impact on actions to come, the debate traversed earthquake risks, engineering semantics and who could even speak to the issue, before the Hutt Valley board resolved on a 6-4 split decision to request another engineering report.

Voting against the resolution, member Ria Earp was visibly frustrated at having to sit through “a great deal of anxiety” and saw little point in doing anything more than ensuring the next set of decision makers understood that the building posed “an enormous risk”.

After three and half hours and with their last meal nigh, one member, not visible on Zoom, called for some “calm and rationality” and with that, the public were excluded.

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