The majority of newly elected Wairarapa district health board members have clinical experience and most at a senior level.
Of the seven people elected six members are new. Leanne Southey was re-elected for a fourth term on the board.
The board includes the hospital’s emergency department lead doctor, its former director of nursing, two former hospital managers, and a private practice clinical director.
Norman Gray is the lead doctor of the hospital’s emergency department.
“It is very good to have clinical representation, we needed that,” Gray said. “So often misinformation gets to board level but as we have on-the-ground experience, the facts are more likely to be accurate at governance level.
“I see what happens, mistruths creep to the top.”
Norman Gray campaigned on the need for urgency to recruit and retain staff and to protect autonomy and funding levels.
“Losing our two psychiatrists because decisions are made outside the Wairarapa is bad. If we had more control over recruitment this wouldn’t have happened.”
However, he feels with a new chief executive and chief medical officer, it is a “time of opportunity and optimism”.
Helen Pocknall is also new to the board. She was the hospital’s quality and risk manager for two years and director of nursing and midwifery for 15 years (2002-2107). She is currently working for the Ministry of Health.
“It’s been good to have a gap between management and going into governance as it can be quite tricky,” Pocknall said.
“Leanne [Southey] brings so much experience and that will be helpful.
“The dhb has a massive deficit which, limits its ability to invest in new services and be innovative. This can be difficult so we will need to work on this.”
Pocknall will have an eye on improving recruitment and retention as will new member Tony Becker, clinical director at Masterton Medical.
“Part of the issue of delivery here is recruitment and retention. I hope the place becomes more attractive for young doctors and their families and we look more to training up who we already have.”
Becker has hands on experience in a private practice, some hospital experience and has been a chair of the local Alliance leadership team [primary health organisations and DHB].
“I want to make sure the board is not a hospital board but works between primary and secondary care,” he said. “We must work well together.
“We need a health board not a hospital board.”
The Wairarapa DHB received $140 million in funding in 2018/19 and has a population base of nearly 50,000.