Amputation in Otago: off with the DHB’s head

Going, going – gone.

Richard Thomson, chair of the Otago District Health Board, has been replaced.

Errol Millar, an appointed member of the board, will take over as chair immediately.

The reason is simply set out in a ministerial media statement

“During Mr Thomson’s chairmanship, the largest fraud in New Zealand State Services history was taking place at Otago DHB. $17 million was defrauded over 6 years,” said Mr Ryall.

“This morning I telephoned Mr Thomson to tell him my decision,” said Mr Ryall.

“Accountability is a critical aspect of the role of the Chair and as Minister I must have confidence that the
chair will lead a board that operates both effectively and efficiently.”

Thomson had been asked to resign. He didn’t.

He will remain on the board, of course, because he was elected to it.

The sacking stems from happenings that led to the health board’s former chief information officer and his friend and business associate being found guilty in December last year of defrauding the board $16.9 million.

Both “gentlemen” (as Labour’s Pete Hodgson described them in Parliament today) await sentencing in the High Court next month.

The board coughed up $1.3 million in legal fees and other expenses relating to the case.

All up, the matter cost some $18.2 million.

You could pull out more than a few tonsils, or patch up plenty of accident victims, or do all sorts of others things to help Otago people medically with that sort of dosh.

Fair to say, several fellow board members support Thomson and regard attempts to remove him as unfair, and Hodgson is accusing Ryall of political interference.

He would, wouldn’t he?

DPF at Kiwiblog had been been baffled by why Labour had campaigned so strongly for Thomson to keep his job, “despite being chair for over 80% of the time the $17 million fraud occurred.”

Then someone told me that the Otago DHB Chair, Richard Thomson, is also very close to Labour. In fact it was suggested that he was once Pete Hodgson’s Campaign Chair. This would explain Mr Hodgson’s spirited advocacy on his behalf.

Alf bows to DPF’s inside knowledge on that score.

Meanwhile he hopes to see more heads roll elsewhere in the state sector when accountability demands it.

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